WATERVILLE — Just moments before the scheduled 6:30 p.m. showing of “Tumbledown,” hundreds of cinephiles stood in a ramshackle line that stretched down the steps of the Waterville Opera House and across the grass on Castonguay Square in the heart of downtown.

It was a record-breaking opening night for the Maine International Film Festival, beginning more than a week of films, events and parties.

Festival Director Shannon Haines announced before the film’s start that it was the first sold-out opening night in the festival’s 18-year history. So many people bought tickets — more than 750 — that the film’s start was delayed by a half-hour so everyone could be seated at the opera house, which seats about 800.

Organizers say they couldn’t have picked a better movie to kick off the festival. “Tumbledown” is a romantic comedy inspired by Farmington, the hometown of writer Desi Van Til, and the eponymous Tumbledown Mountain in nearby Weld. It’s the first film collaboration between Van Til and her husband, Sean Mewshaw, who live in Portland.

Farmington has been buzzing about the movie all week, and Friday’s crowd was filled with people from the Franklin County town, according to Diane Kruchkow, from nearby New Sharon. “We’re all really excited,” Kruchkow said as she waited in line.

That might have been what pushed this year’s opening night over the top.

Even though most of “Tumbledown” was filmed in Massachusetts, a fact that has disappointed some, it features locations that are Farmington mainstays, such as the Devaney, Doak and Garrett Bookstore and The Homestead restaurant.

Susan and Fritz Onion, who grew up in Farmington and live in Wayne, said they were excited to see their hometown featured on the big screen. “‘Tumbledown’ was a real draw, since we’ve spent a lot of time hiking it,” Susan Onion said.

Jim Delamater, of Oxford, was on his way up the opera house steps to get a seat for the film. It was his first time at the festival, Delamater said, but he had a good reason to come. His son, Matt Delamater, is one of the supporting actors in the film. The younger Delamater, who lives in Portland, made a minor splash earlier this year when he was cast in a small part in the NBC series “American Odyssey.”

“We’re anxious to see how it comes out,” Jim Delamater said. “He’s been thrilled to be part of it.” Even though his son is in the film, Delamater hasn’t seen even a minute of the movie, so he was excited to see how it all came out.

“We’re having fun watching him having fun,” Delamater said.

Inside the opera house, a line of ticket holders snaked up the staircase an hour before the screening.

Corey Bulloch, a young, aspiring filmmaker who studies at the University for the Creative Arts outside of London, England, said it was his third year at the film festival.

“I like the variety of films. There’s a lot of stuff that they don’t show anywhere else,” Bulloch said.

MIFF features some of the films that make the rounds at larger festivals, but also features small, independent movies that get less exposure. The festival also gives Bulloch a chance to see classics such as “Manhattan” and “A Fistful of Dollars” on a big screen.

Upstairs, Linda McCann, of Winslow, was waiting to meet her friend and find a seat in the theater. McCann said she comes to MIFF every year and loves the chance to meet and talk with other film buffs. McCann likes to watch documentaries, but she said she’s willing to see any movie and she gets her best recommendations from other viewers.

“That’s basically how I find the best movies — not from a write-up in the program, but through word of mouth,” McCann said.

She and her husband attended the Atlanta Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, in April and thought that MIFF “blew it out of the water” in its quality and quantity of films and the chance to hear from filmmakers.

“Where else can you see a hundred movies in a week?” McCann said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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