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Tom Skerritt will help open 2023 Gig Harbor Film Festival

Posted on July 31st, 2023 By:

Tickets for the Gig Harbor Film Festival go on sale Tuesday, Aug. 1. Tom Skerritt will make an opening night appearance, lending star power to an event that’s building a reputation as one of the best smaller film festivals in the world.

Skerritt, a Western Washington resident, will appear to promote “East of the Mountains,” a 2021 film based on a book by Bainbridge Island author David Guterson.

The festival runs from Sept. 21 to Sept. 24 at the Galaxy Theatre in the Uptown Gig Harbor complex. General admission passes, which provide access to movies Friday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 24, cost $50 and go on sale Tuesday.

VIP passes cost $375 and come with access to opening night, special events, priority seating and more. Film Festival Executive Director Pam Holt said VIP passes are sold out. 

“East of the Mountains”

The festival’s opening night, on Thursday, Sept. 21, includes a screening of “East of the Mountains” and a post-movie Q&A with Skerritt. Opening night festivities are open to VIP pass holders, attending filmmakers and people who volunteer at least two shifts at the festival.

“East of the Mountains,” which also stars Mira Sorvino, tells the story of a retired heart surgeon who travels from Seattle to Eastern Washington after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s considered the first leading role in the over six-decade career of Skerritt, now 89 years old.

Fans know the actor best for his roles in “Top Gun,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Alien.” He’s been around long enough to have appeared in 1960s TV shows like “Gunsmoke” and “The Virginian” and was a key part of the cast of the “M*A*S*H” movie, which predated the iconic TV series. 

East of the Mountains” is based on a novel by Guterson, a friend of Skerritt’s and the author of the novel “Snow Falling on Cedars.” Filming locations included in Snohomish County, Seattle and Kittitas County. 

“East of the Mountains” stars Tom Skerritt as a retired heart surgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer.

64 films, four screens

Over its four-day run, the festival will showcase 64 films on four theater screens. Every film shows at least twice.

The festival has been around since 2007, minus a couple COVID years, and organizers say they’ve never had a better collection of movies on offer.

“Our curation team believes this is the best lineup of films that we’ve had,” Holt said. “We are really excited about it.” 

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The lineup will include a steady diet of Washington-made films, both to bolster the industry in the state and because they are popular with audiences. “When we had sellout films last year, they were mostly made in Washington films,” Holt said. 

“East of the Mountains” is an example of that. So is “The Lost Angle,” a documentary short directed by Brandon Hicks and written and executive produced by Heath Hollensbe of the Meraki Agency.

“Lost Angle” shows footage that previously wasn’t publicly available of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940. 

The focus helps draw visitors, both from elsewhere in Washington state and from around the country, to Gig Harbor for the festival. 

“It definitely has an impact on tourism,” Holt said. “We’re always excited about that. It makes it fun to have people from all over the country” visit Gig Harbor. 

Tickets will be for sale starting Aug. 1 at Galaxy Uptown Theatre. A program and schedule information will be available soon on the film festival’s website. 

Crowds line up for a previous year of the Gig Harbor Film Festival.