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DULUTH — A new film festival in Ely next week aims to solidify the popular, outdoorsy summer tourist town as a winter arts destination.

The End of the Road Film Festival, which runs Feb. 9-12, capitalizes on the renovated 240-seat Historic State Theater and new Greenstone Cinema. Built in 1936, the decaying historic theater reopened in 2020 following extensive restoration.

Thanks to new state and regional film production tax incentives, "there is a lot of buzz and growth in the independent film industry in the region," catalyzing the idea for the event, said Jacob White, festival director.

The Legislature and St. Louis County approved tax credits and rebates, respectively, in recent years to lure film and television projects.

The restored theater is primed to host a festival, White said, especially "during the dark days" of an Ely winter.

It begins at the second half of the longtime annual Winter Festival in Ely, a 10-day event that showcases art, snow sculptures and outdoor recreation.

More than 35 local, regional and national filmmakers will show 84 feature and short films. On Friday, the festival will highlight several Indigenous traditions and films, including a showing of "Bring Her Home," about the plight of three women working to vindicate and honor their murdered and missing Indigenous relatives.

Free tickets were given to area schools for the Friday showings, and a Q&A with "Bring Her Home" film subject Mysti Babineau will follow.

Two films kick off the festival: "Northern Nights, Starry Skies," about the region's dark sky designations, and "After Antarctica," a film about polar explorer and Ely resident Will Steger.

Festival passes are $75, and individual films and tickets to short film blocks are $10. The festival includes live music, workshops and discussions with filmmakers.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the dates of the film festival.