Phil Neufeld, the founder and organizer of FLICS International Cinema Society, is calling it quits after this season. The Fox Theater, which FLICS has called home for the last 21 seasons, will take up the cause, programming foreign and art films in the future.

FLICS International Cinema Society is officially folding after this season, but there's no reason for film fans to panic.

Founder and organizer Phil Neufeld is bound for Santa Fe, N.M., but the Fox Theater, which FLICS has called home for the last 21 of its 36 seasons, will take up the mantle of showing foreign and art films. The theater will continue to work with FLICS' remaining board members and the series will go on, just possibly with a different name.

"We have been talking with the Fox, and the board is as enthused as we are with this idea," Neufeld said. "It will be the same kind of thing. Very little will change, except it will get better."

Fox Foundation vice president Vikki Peterson wrote in an email to The Californian that the foundation is "extremely happy to confirm that we will be continuing the great legacy of FLICS at the Fox Theater."

"The current film curators will remain to insure the fans will be enjoying the same type of great films they have been for over the past 30 years," Peterson continued. "The Fox Theater looks forward to (continuing) the same business plan they have used to create a dedicated audience."

Neufeld said the Fox is likely to make the series even better, as it won't need to schedule films as far in advance, whereas FLICS had to present a complete season-long schedule months ahead of the first screening. Oftentimes, he said, FLICS would have a film planned several months in advance only for the screening to miss some initial buzz for the movie. The Fox, though, won't have to plan its whole season several months out.

"They're open to any kind of advice we can give them," Neufeld said. "Which is flattering, because they set the standard."

FLICS first started in 1982, when Neufeld decided to do something about the lack of foreign films in Bakersfield. For the first several years, FLICS bounced around between a few small venues before finding a home at the Fox more than 21 years ago.

People at the theater, Neufeld said, had been thinking about starting their own film series, but when someone told them one already existed, they offered the theater to FLICS. Neufeld recalled being grateful but reluctant, knowing there was no way their screenings would fill the 1,500-seat theater, as they were only averaging about 140 at that time. Attendance grew at the new home but only came close to packing the theater once, when "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" opened the 2010-2011 season. Still, that means there's always room for more.

Neufeld doesn't want FLICS fans to fret about his departure. They and the series are in good hands, many of them the same ones who have overseen the series alongside Neufeld over the years.

"We want our supporters to be comfortable and support it because we would be nothing without the people coming out and seeing the films," he said.

With his organization's legacy safe, Neufeld is looking forward to life in Santa Fe. The retired Kern County firefighter will be moving there with his fiancee. A cousin from Santa Barbara will also make the move with them. Neufeld will leave behind a niece and great-nephew, whom he said will visit him "as often as I can get them there."

Because of the thriving arts culture in Santa Fe, Neufeld doesn't expect he will need to start a FLICS-like series there. Although he hasn't yet spent much time in his new home, he's excited about all that the city has to offer. That doesn't make leaving Bakersfield and FLICS easy, though.

"Well, it's pretty bittersweet," Neufeld said of leaving. "I will take credit for coming up with the concept (of FLICS) but it's been a labor of love for a whole lot of people. I could not do a fraction of the stuff on my own."

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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