The Cliffhanger Film Festivals are an annual series of spring and fall film festivals, celebrating Fort Lee’s role as the birthplace of the motion picture industry. These popular festivals have included:
- A tribute to the Barrymore family, for the films they made in Fort Lee and their role as residents of the Coytesville section of the borough;
- Early film star Pearl White, the symbol of the Fort Lee Film Commission, for her early “cliffhanger” movie serials shot on the New Jersey Palisades;
- A salute to Universal Studios, which was born in Fort Lee in 1912 through the union of such Fort Lee studios as Champion and IMP. (The Champion/IMP studio building built in Coytesville in 1909 still stands on Fifth Street.)
- A celebration of Black History Month by honoring pioneer African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Micheaux made many of his silent and “talkie” films in Fort Lee, including the first African-American talking picture, The Exile (1931), shot at Metropolitan Studios in Fort Lee;
- A tribute to “Women in Film”, honoring the many women who played important roles in the formation of the studio system. One example is Alice Guy Blache, who built Solax Studios in Fort Lee in 1912 and was the first woman to direct motion pictures.
Guests at Cliffhanger Film Festivals have included Chris Costello, daughter of Universal Studio comedian Lou Costello; Oscar Micheaux scholar Pearl Bowser; film historian and radio personality Joe Franklin; comedian and entertainer “Uncle Floyd” Vivino; and New York TV horror host “Zacherle”.