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Three Bahamian films are being featured this weekend at the Portland Maine Film Festival.
The works by Kareem Mortimer, Lavado Stubbs and Marinah Jello are being spotlighted as part of the Bahamas Film Commission's efforts to promote the emerging Bahamian film market to international audiences.
The grassroots festival's founder and director is Tyler Johnston, a filmmaker of Bahamian heritage.
The Bahamian entries are among 20 shorts and feature-length films that will be screened this weekend. Johnston told the BDN Maine that he created a hybrid festival to celebrate both coastal regions that share an independent spirit.
He sees the festival as a "cultural exchange program" uniting film heavyweights from the tropics to the rocky coast, it was reported.
Clarence Rolle, Bahamas Film Commission representative who is attending the festival, will participate in a panel discussion and speak about building more opportunities for independent film in the region in partnership with the Bahamas Institute for Motion Pictures.
Award-winning filmmaker Kareem Mortimer's "Passage", about a Haitian brother and sister immigrating to The Bahamas on a wooden ship, will open the festival. "Passage" recently won best short at the FLIFF On-Location: Grand Bahama Film Festival.
Also screening is Bahamian director Lavado Stubbs' music video "I'm Not Through", featuring the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band and the music of U.S. pop band OK!GO!
Bahamian/American filmmaker Marinah Jenello's short experimental film, "Something's Lurking in the Water", will screen as part of the Women in Film short program.
The festival's Opening Night Bahama Beach Party last night was sponsored by the Bahamas Film Commission and featured Bahamian food and drinks.
"It's very special to have these three truly unique and beautiful Bahamian movies play this year," said Johnston. "The Bahamas Film Commission is extraordinarily supportive, and I look forward to working with them on developing more opportunities for independent filmmaking in The Bahamas and bringing international exposure to emerging Bahamian film market."
Special guests and friends of the festival include Sean Robins of Broken Road Productions, a Hollywood production company responsible for multiple blockbuster films; Joe Sumner of Vylcone, a cutting edge smart phone video application for film makers; and Dan Mirvish, founder of the famous Slamdance Film Festival and director of the award winning film "Between Us", which is also screening at the festival. A special Independent Spirit Award in Honor of Dan Mirvish will be given to an emerging filmmaker at the festival awards ceremony.
The Myers Food Group is bolstering its presence on Paradise Island with the opening of Quiznos and the imminent arrival of Dunkin' Donuts later this month.
The new Quiznos, now located in Marina Village, replaces the franchise that was formerly located in Paradise Village. Dunkin' Donuts will subsequently take up position in Paradise Village, resulting in two new fast-food restaurants in close proximity.
The two stores will employ approximately 30 Bahamians and provide an affordable dining option for thousands of tourists and workers.
The degree of investment by The Myers Group, which owns a number of Bahamian franchises such as Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Quiznos Subs, was not disclosed.
"Quiznos is a quality brand that should have an appeal to visitors at Atlantis, not to mention those that work on the island," said Ash Henderson, director of marketing at Restaurant Services Limited.
"It made sense to be in a high visible and high traffic area."
The Myers Group also owns Anthony's Grill, making the company a dominant food provider in the area.
The new Quiznos store is the second for The Bahamas, with the other located in the new U.S. Departures terminal in Lynden Pindling International Airport.
The company is in the midst of aggressive worldwide expansion and plans to establish 40 international outlets in the next two years.
Don Spina, the director of operations for Quiznos in The Bahamas, expressed confidence concerning the new location.
"We're happy to be able to bring the ease and convenience of Quiznos to visitors and residents alike," he said. "Quiznos' unique toasted subs are internationally popular, and offer a quick, healthy option to other foods."
Spina also noted how consumers are increasingly conscious of calories and nutrition "and we satisfy on both scores".
As for the Dunkin' Donuts location, the exact opening date is unknown, although executives insist it will occur before the end of this month.
This outlet will represent the sixth restaurant on New Providence. According to Henderson, The Myers Group is considering as many as nine Dunkin' Donuts in The Bahamas.
"We have tossed around the idea of eight or nine as a rough estimate of what we can ultimately do," he said.
The attorney for an Abaco couple who saw the development they were involved with subject to a takeover by a team led by Grant Thornton Bahamas, confirmed yesterday that the couple plans to seek to have this takeover overturned in the courts, with applications to be made to this effect in short order.
Roy Sweeting, partner with law firm Glinton Sweeting and O'Brien, and representative for James and Melonie Albury, told Guardian Business that "a lot of incorrect statements" have been made in relation to his clients.
In particular, he said that Melonie Albury's company, Albury's Property Management, "has nothing at all to do with" the overall management of the 203-acre Orchid Bay property, but simply "does some maintenance on private homes and rents golf carts" within the development.
Sweeting stated that Melonie Albury's husband, James 'Jimmy' Albury, is the receiver for the Guana Cay Abaco Development Company.
On December 12, Grant Thornton Managing Partner Paul Gomez took control of the Orchid Bay Resort and Marina.
Court documents obtained by this newspaper show the Supreme Court has appointed Gomez the receiver for the William B. Johnson Investment Company and William B. Johnson entities, which own the outstanding and issued shares in Guana Cay Abaco Development Company.
Gomez is now attempting to account for all of the assets in the company with a view to sell them to raise funds necessary to pay off a debt owed to his client, Synovus.
US bank, Synovus, is the primary creditor of the companies for which Gomez has now been appointed receiver, whose principal is American businessman William B. Johnson.
The property contains a number of houses which are offered as rental properties, and residents have expressed concern that the takeover will interfere with their ability to rent out their properties over Christmas.
A secondary legal action is also underway which alleges that James Albury, acting as property manager for Orchid Bay, caused some of its assets to be sold at significantly below their true market value.
The Dunkin' Donuts brand is poised to expand in New Providence, Guardian Business can reveal, with a sixth restaurant scheduled to open in a month on Paradise Island.
Nigel Travis, the CEO of Dunkin' Brands, flew into Nassau for the corporation's international conference at Atlantis. He sat down with this newspaper to announce the new location and discussed the global outlook.
The new Dunkin' Donuts, close to Marina Village, falls under the umbrella of George Myers.
Myers, the chairman and CEO of the Myers Group, owns a number of Bahamian franchises, including Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Quiznos Subs.
Ash Henderson, director of marketing at Restaurant Services Limited, said there is potential for even more Dunkin' Donuts restaurants in New Providence.
"We have tossed around the idea of eight or nine as a rough estimate of what we can ultimately do," he said. "We have a store opening in about a month on Paradise Island, next to Anthony's Grill. That brings us up to six altogether."
Travis told Guardian Business he met with stakeholders in The Bahamas during the conference.
The CEO said this country benefits from a number of factors. Language is not a barrier, he said, and given its proximity to the U.S. and high traffic of tourists, he anticipates a bright future for the franchise.
Dunkin' Donuts launched the flagship store in the downtown core back in 2009.
The store's visibility and familiarity for millions of tourists has proven to be a big plus.
"I think one of the unique characteristics is the sheer amount of traffic from the cruise business," Travis said. "I think it's going through a tough time at the moment. But every time I look out there, I see big ships. I think they warm to seeing Dunkin' Donuts. You tend to gravitate towards it."
The top executive said one of the advantages of the corporation is it enjoys "huge white space" both internationally and in the U.S.
In fact, according to projections provided to Guardian Business, between 260 and 280 Dunkin' Donuts are slated to open in the U.S. this year. For both franchises, between 550 and 650 stores are expected in global net development.
The company is projecting 6 to 7 percent revenue growth across all Dunkin' brands.
Travis revealed that by the second quarter Dunkin' Donuts hopes to launch its first-ever store in India. The brand continues to grow in China and throughout Asia as well.
"I would say we are an international company with an international heritage. But we haven't grown as well as I would like. And we're gearing up to do more in the future," he said.
Despite the presence of "pretty horrific unemployment rates" in parts of the U.S., one of the benefits of the franchise is price competitiveness.
The Bahamas' unemployment rate stands at around 15.9 percent.
Dunkin' Donuts is seen as an "affordable pleasure", with efforts made to keep costs down for consumers.
Placing the business in perspective, Travis said, based on the comments made by franchisees at Atlantis, spirits remain high for growth and continued profit. Limited time offers, such as the Big N' Toasty, the Smokehouse Sausage Breakfast Sandwich and Sausage Pancake Bites, have proven to be particularly lucrative to Dunkin' Donuts, he said. Consumers should look for more of these special offers in the coming year.
He said this approach tends to stimulate sales and differentiate them from the competition.
Also in the sights of the company is more utilization of its "very strong technology platform". Travis aims to deliver new ways of offering the brands to guests by pushing online activity, social media and mobile initiatives.
"We try and stay on top of these trends. Right now, most people think this is a brand with a lot of buzz," Travis told Guardian Business.
Looking to build on a successful 2011 campaign, the Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) is particularly optimistic that the organization is poised for more steady growth and exposure in the new year.
The only marina organization of its kind in The Bahamas, the MOB is confident that its upward momentum will carry through into 2012, with growth already seen in membership and activity over 2011, according to a group executive.
"Our membership has already jumped from 9 to 52 members since we were formed two years ago, and the growth that we are having is pretty remarkable," said MOB manager Shamine Johnson. "We're very optimistic going forward."
One of the highlights for the organization was a $40,000 grant it received from the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), aimed at developing the marina and enhancing its marketing and strategic vision. The MOB also became a part of the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA) in June, creating more exposure throughout the region.
A detailed map was also launched by the group, which outlined all of the marinas in The Bahamas for visitors to use as a reference. An advertising campaign is also in the works for the map, which marinas can use to market their businesses to prospective customers.
The growth in the country's marina sector was not without its challenges, with one of the major ones being high diesel prices throughout the year. The rising diesel costs made it more difficult for marinas to maintain current profit margins and a high customer base. The MOB was also active in trying to improve the current boat theft laws, lobbying for an amendment.
The optimism of the group can be seen in the actions of its members, with a Family Island marina operator looking to bounce back after a year filled with challenges, seeking a 10 percent rise in business in 2012.
Owner of Flying Fish Marina on Long Island, Mario Cartwright, told Guardian Business recently that 2011 had its fair share of ups and downs, but despite the challenges he is very optimistic about 2012.
"It has been reasonably steady for 2011, yacht sales have been a little depressed globally but as far as yachting in general we had a solid year," Cartwright said. "It's the way the business works, it's been up and down all year but for the most part we are looking to improve in 2012."
While Cartwright deemed 2011 a decent year, he admitted that the season had its fair amount of rough stretches.
An unexpected problem came in the form of Hurricane Irene, which caused some damage and thousands of dollars in repairs. However, Cartwright added that he caught a break when the hurricane arrived during the slower part of the marina season. However, he realizes that such incidents come with the territory and he is optimistic he will have a strong 2012.
"I feel that 2012 will be a great year for marinas in The Bahamas, and the amount of work the MOB has done to increase the global exposure of marinas is very commendable," Cartwright said.
"I have been here from the start and I believe that the improvement in the global economy will create a domino effect that will translate into growth for the organization and the marina sector in The Bahamas."
A key Family Island resort is boasting about its 20 per cent increase in revenue for 2013.
The Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina continues to show impressive business growth for the year.
"We are pacing to be one of the better performing properties in The Bahamas this year," said General Manager Michael Weber.
"And 2014 is off to a great start with several weekends already sold out."
Closed for two years, the Big Game Club, which was founded as a dinner club in 1936, was re-opened in 2010 following completion of a $3.5 million renovation that included all guest rooms, the new Bimini Big Game Bar & Grill, Hemingway Rum Bar and Social Lounge, Gulfstream Conference Center and the Outfitter Shop.
Weber and his wife, Diana, who handles sales and marketing, credits "hard work and creative thinking" to positioning and promoting the 51-room, 75-slip marina property located in Alice Town.
"We continue to exhibit at various boat shows and other trade shows to generate more business to the resort. We've also re-established big game tournaments drawing large turnouts, created the world's first dockside bull shark cage experience, increased our group dive bookings drawing European and Canadian visitors and improved our food and beverage offerings adding a Shark Bar, private labeled Big Game Club Ale and introduced holistic menus for those requesting gluten-free and vegetarian meals, as well as meeting other dietary requests," said Diana Weber.
"We've also seen an increase in our marina business thanks to seasonal discount specials and long-term slip rentals."
Also joining the Big Game Club in 2013 is the Bimini- Quebec Watersports operation that offers a variety of watersports including back country kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, bicycle rentals, sailing and bareboat rentals.
"Especially popular with families is our free pool 'Intro to scuba dive' class for all guests with a PADI dive instructor," said Diana Weber.
The Webers continue to plan more events to attract guests in 2014, including a return of the highly popular "Wahoo Smackdown" tournament in February and in April the first ever "NFL Hall of Fame Billfish Invitational."
Palm Cay has launched a major new promotion, reaching out to the 1.5 million visitors daily who come to New York City's Times Square via an advertisement that will appear on a huge screen in the world famous site for over a month.
As New Year's Eve revelers pulled scarves and loved ones closer to battle the bitter cold, the sight of townhomes and palm trees on a stretch of white sandy beach with a view of the clear blue sky and turquoise sea sparked dreams of paradise.
The unexpected appearance of the award-winning community with two short words on the screen, Palm Cay, and the website, Palmcay.com, was part of an ongoing ad campaign that between December 27, 2013 and February 1, 2014 will be viewed by tens of millions of people.
For Palm Cay, which was recently awarded the first ever Developer of the Year Award by the Bahamian Contractors Association, the exposure was the highlight of an ongoing drive to draw attention to its $200 million fully-funded family-oriented active community with a wide array of residential options, a 194-slip marina and more.
And for The Bahamas, it represents free exposure. Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle said the sight of Palm Cay on the huge screen in Times Square was a welcome surprise.
"Someone who was in New York told me about it and when I looked online and found it was true, it was great," said Rolle. "You can't pay for that kind of coverage. On behalf of the government I would like to congratulate and to thank Palm Cay for what they represent as a community, and for what they have done to place The Bahamas in such a prominent position and high profile, especially at this time of year when what weather experts are calling an 'Arctic hurricane' is freezing much of the U.S. and the sun is shining on our shores."
According to Palm Cay Sales & Marketing Director Zack Bonczek, the marketing team was able to capitalize on a long-established relationship with the firm that arranged for the extraordinary coverage.
"We are appreciative of Horizon's selection of Palm Cay as a client it wanted to reward because as Minister Rolle said, 'you can't pay for this kind of coverage'. We are thrilled with the response and proud that Palm Cay was able to draw such attention to The Bahamas."
Bonczek said it was too early to tell whether the exposure was driving business, but admitted it had been a very encouraging year for the nearly 70-acre development on the southeastern shore of New Providence.
"2014 looks like a very promising year and you can't ask for a better start than a billion people viewing Palm Cay on New Year's Eve and another 1.5 million people seeing it 168 times a day for 37 days. That's just about 1.5 billion people who caught a glimpse of the beauty of The Bahamas," he said.
Cape Eleuthera has shut its doors to resort guests and entered a "state of transition" whereby all units in the development will be sold off to private homeowners.
Stephen Kappeler, the president of the Marine Organization of The Bahamas (MOB), resigned his post as general manager. While the marina remains open, Cape Eleuthera's website (www.capeeleuthera.com) has been shut down, and patrons are asked to simply contact Dan Oliver, the property manager.
The news comes weeks after Cape Eleuthera was removed from the list of locations for the Bahamas Billfish Tournament due to insufficient interest. Fuel prices have proven to be a major deterrent for yacht owners in recent years. Cape Eleuthera lost up to $500,000 in fuel sales by not participating in the recent fishing tournament.
Oliver told Guardian Business that the development's "state of transition" does not have a set timeline, as it slowly returns to the "original plan" of offering only vacation homes.
"We don't operate as a resort," he said. "The resort was never part of the original plan. That just evolved over time. There is no closure."
With 22 units on the property, Oliver explained that many of them will need to be closed for updates and repairs before going on the market. He said there is still lingering damage from when Hurricane Irene rocked Cape Eleuthera last year. The property sustained damages estimated to cost up to $250,000, according to Kappeler.
The original developer has also expressed interest in retaining some of the units.
"They aren't telling me how many will go up for sale exactly. The market is not what it was when they were first built. Real estate prices have dropped somewhat. I have no idea where we'll be in terms of pricing," according to the property manager.
Oliver added that the marina is full service, and "there are quite a few boats out there right now". Cape Eleuthera is now coming into hurricane season, however, when marine business tends to slow down considerably.
The development's recent difficulties are indeed being felt throughout the island, Guardian Business understands.
High fuel prices and a rough economy are taking its roll on Eleuthera, and in particular Harbour Island.
Anne Ward, international client manager at Romora Bay Resort and Marina, reported that operations are still running at about 50 percent compared to pre-recession levels.
Thus far, 2012 has been even slower than 2010, she said. Ward explained that the business Harbour Island could count on has dried up, leaving only a handful of tourists that can still afford the experience.
"Ticket prices are a serious issue," Ward told Guardian Business. "And when you get here, it's too expensive. It seems to have reached a critical level. I think Harbour Island thought it had it good for a while, and it wasn't really hurt like the other islands."