CineVegas was a film festival held annually at the Palms Casino Resort in Paradise, Nevada that ran from 1999 to 2009, typically in early June. Robin Greenspun serves as the Festival president, and Trevor Groth serves as artistic director. Actor Dennis Hopper was the chairman of the Festival's creative advisory board from 2004 until his death in 2010.
Over the past decade, CineVegas has established itself as one of the fastest growing film festivals in the world, with profiles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine. CineVegas was mentioned as one of the top 5 festivals to visit by Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper and was also named one of the top 5 gem festivals in the world by Variety, one of the top 12 film festivals in North America by San Francisco Magazine, and one of the top 7 events occurring in Las Vegas by LA Weekly. Combining world premiere films and independent cinema with celebrity honorees and panel discussions about filmmakers, writers, and talent, at night CineVegas also hosts parties in locations as diverse as bowling alleys, rooftops, and shark reefs.
CineVegas has hosted the world premieres of such films as Land of the Dead, Spun, Bubba Ho-tep, and Artie Lange's Beer League, as well as advance screenings of high profile and independent films, shorts, and documentaries such as Ocean's Thirteen, You Kill Me, Whale Rider, Riding Giants, and The Aristocrats. Honorees in past years have included Jon Voight, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Kingsley, Viggo Mortensen, Don Cheadle, Christina Ricci, Charlize Theron, Nicolas Cage, Julian Schnabel, Holly Hunter, Mike Newell, Taylor Hackford, Ann-Margret, Helen Mirren, and David Lynch.
Launched in 1998 by an enthusiastic group of movie and art lovers, independent filmmakers and film industry veterans, CineVegas was originally held at Bally's. The first Festival featured “The Best of the Fests”, showcasing independent films that had previously earned awards and acclaim at other worldwide festivals. In 2000, the Festival moved to Bally's sister hotel Paris, and for two years the Paris showroom and convention spaces were transformed to accommodate not only “The Best of the Fests” but premieres like Star Trek: Insurrection and films such as The Cider House Rules, Gods and Monsters and Little Voice. In 2001, the Festival presented Tony Curtis the first Marquee Award for lifetime achievement. CineVegas also coined the Half-Life Award given to stars midway through their careers.
In 2002, CineVegas joined forces with The Entertainment Development Corporation, a non-profit agency with a mission to bring entertainment-based business to the Southern Nevada area. Under the direction of the staff of EDC and the CineVegas Advisory Board, the Festival moved to the Palms Casino Resort and Brenden Theatres. In addition, Trevor Groth, a senior programmer with the Sundance Film Festival, was brought on as Director of Programming. Under Groth’s guidance, the quality of original programming and new filmmakers that participated in the festival took off. In his first year, Groth presented premieres of Sunshine State, Spun, Bubba Ho-tep, Poolhall Junkies and Happy Here and Now. The list of celebrities and industry people participating in the festival grew tremendously as well and Dustin Hoffman was presented with the Marquee Award.
The Festival continued its tremendous growth in 2003, showing premieres of Breakfast with Hunter, "Dallas 362", Games People Play, and This Girl's Life along with festival favorites The Magdalene Sisters, Owning Mahoney and Whale Rider. Hunter S. Thompson triumphantly returned to Las Vegas for the first time since his legendary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was published. Dennis Hopper received the Marquee Award and was so enamored of the festival that he became the chair of the CineVegas Film Festival Creative Advisory Board in 2004.
In the following years, CineVegas kept growing by leaps and bounds. 2004 saw honorees Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Holly Hunter, Bruce Conner, David Lynch, Julian Schnabel and Dean Stockwell rub shoulders with the slot machines. The world premieres included Mitchellville and The Talent Given Us, both of which went on to play at the Sundance Film Festival. 2005 welcomed Christopher Walken, Nicolas Cage, Ann-Margret, Samantha Morton, Rhonda Fleming, George A. Romero and Wim Wenders to the huge list of CineVegas honorees, as the Festival closed with the exciting World Premiere of Land of the Dead. The 2006 fest honored Helen Mirren, Sylvester Stallone, Christina Ricci, Taylor Hackford and Laurence Fishburne. World Premieres at the fest included Danika starring Marisa Tomei, Rebecca Romijn’s documentary Wet Dreams, and Artie Lange's Beer League.
The 2007 Festival made a big splash with the opening night Las Vegas premiere of Ocean's Thirteen with the cast in attendance. The screening raised over one million dollars for the charity Not On Our Watch, an organization whose initial campaign is to support existing Darfur humanitarian relief efforts and to ensure the protection of civilians in that region. The Festival also honored Charlize Theron, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ben Kingsley and director Mike Newell in 2007.
A special screening of the comedy The Rocker kicked off the 2008 Festival. The opening night was highlighted by the film's star, Rainn Wilson, arriving to the red carpet in the world's largest stretch Hummer along with an entourage of Vegas partygoers. The 2008 Festival was highlighted by a special advance screening of Get Smart with Dwayne Johnson, as well as a rare showing of Planting the Seeds, the short animated film from renowned international artist Takashi Murakami. Celebrities honored at the 2008 Festival include James Caan, Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Anjelica Huston, Viggo Mortensen and Sam Rockwell.
The 11th Annual Festival kicked off with the world premiere of Saint John of Las Vegas, starring Steve Buscemi as an ex-gambler-turned fraud investigator who must return to Las Vegas to investigate an insurance claim. The film also stars Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, and Tim Blake Nelson. The 2009 Festival also honored actors Jon Voight and Willem Dafoe as well as directors George Kuchar and Mike Kuchar. In addition, Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago were honored with the inaugural Planet Illogica Award for Excellence in New Media. This award is for artists working in the realm of video gaming who have pushed the boundaries of storytelling in their field.
Due to economic concerns, Festival President Robin Greenspun and Artistic Director Trevor Groth announced in September 2009 that the 2010 Festival would be cancelled. On May 29, 2010, chairman Dennis Hopper died of prostate cancer. The 2011 Festival did not take place either, and it is unknown if a festival will take place in the future.
- Feldberg, Sarah (2010-05-29). "Dennis Hopper, actor and CineVegas chairman, dead at 74". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
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