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Traverse City Film Festival ends after almost 20 years

raverse City Film Festival on marquee at The State Theatre. Hand holding an official movie guide brochure for the event in front of theatre awning
(Cory Woodruff /
  • Michael Moore, founder of the Traverse City Film Festival announced that the board decided to end the annual event
  • The long-running film festival offered free movies, film classes and ran  for nearly 20 years
  • The State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay will continue to show movies 

The Traverse City Film Festival will not return in 2023 following a unanimous board decision to close it, Michael Moore, president and founder of the festival, announced in an email on Tuesday.  

The board of directors voted to end the festival while they were debt free.  The festival was postponed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic and it struggled to bring in a profit over the last few years.


“We’ve decided, after much heartfelt discussion, that it’s best to close this era of the film fest now while we’re ahead, no longer in debt, and go out on top with many years of fond memories that we will all collectively cherish for the rest of our lives," he said in an email.


But the annual event was met with hardship. The festival broke even for the first time in a few years last summer, which Moore said was one of the “best festivals ever,” in an email published by UpNorthLive.  

Moore alongside native Michiganders including producer Rod Birleson (“Canadian Bacon” and “Michale Moore in Trumpland”), Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels (who founded The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea) , Emmy and Oscar Award-winning actress Christine Lahti (“Chicago Hope”) served on the organization’s original board of directors, according to the festival’s website. 

“The film fest that we knew and loved is now a piece of wonderful history,” Moore said.  “We will keep showing great movies at the State and the Bijou. And together we’ll keep trying to make this world a better place.” 


Funds from the festival helped renovate The State and turned a historic museum into the Bijou which serves as a sister theater to The State, according to the festival’s website. 

Last year’s nearly week-long festival presented classic movies on an outdoor screen at the waterfront, panel discussions with directors, writers, actors and members of the film industry. 

Films shown last year included “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales” about workers at Disneyland struggling to put food on the table and “Breaking Surface” about a scuba diver who gets trapped while diving.

A film school was hosted throughout the festival, offering two classes daily for film students and members of the community. 

The two historic movie theaters, The State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay will continue to show movies.

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