More than 5,000 cat lovers are expected to descend on Oakland's Uptown district on May 11, when the city hosts the Bay Area premiere of the Internet Cat Video Festival.
Eighty videos of cats doing what they do best - being cute – will be projected in high definition by a 15,000-lumen projector onto the Great Wall of Oakland, a giant100-foot-by-100-foot wall on West Grand Avenue between Broadway and Valley Street.
"There's something going on in our culture were cats are really hot right now," says Issabella Shields, the Great Wall's Executive Director. "Instead of watching cat videos secretly in your cubicle by yourself and feeling guilty for wasting time at work, this is your chance to watch them outdoors with your friends."
Shields expects the festival to draw a diverse audience, including "Internet addicts, families who have cats of their own, and hipsters who think cat videos are ironic."
The festival, which began last year at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, will feature 80 of the most popular felines on the Web, including the Surprised Kitten, Henri the Existential Cat, and Dusty the Klepto Kitty, whose larcenous ways earned him an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.
"They flew us back to New York for the show," says Dusty's owner, Jean Chu of San Mateo. "Dusty flew business class; I flew coach."
Dusty will make a personal appearance at the festival together with some of his ill-gotten gains, which include 16 car wash mitts, seven sponges, 213 dish towels, seven wash cloths, five towels, 18 shoes, 73 socks, 100 gloves, one pair of mittens, three aprons, 40 balls, four pairs of underwear, one dog collar, six rubber toys, one blanket, three leg warmers, two Frisbees, one golf club head cover, one safety mask, two mesh bags, one bag of water balloons, one pair of pajama pants and eight bathing suits.
The videos, which begin at sundown, will be preceded by a festival starting at 3 p.m. that will include live bands playing cat-themed music, an "arts and cats" area featuring cat-themed works by local artisans, local food trucks, and animal rescue groups with cats and kittens available for adoption.
As the sun sets, the Great Wall's artist-in-residence group, Bandaloop, will perform a cat-themed aerial duet on the Great Wall, followed by the videos themselves.
Tickets to the festival are available at oaklandvidfest.eventbrite.com. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for youths 16 and under. A limited number of VIP tickets, entitling the bearer to a beach chair in the front row, will be sold for $75.
In addition, the Oakland Museum – renamed Mew-seum for the occasion - will preview the videos on May 10, the night before the festival. Tickets are $25 and can be obtained at omcacatvidscreening.eventbrite.com. The preview will include a panel headed by Scott Stulen, Project Director of the Walker Art Center, the man who came up with the idea of a cat video festival in the first place.
"We put a press release on our blog with a call for nominations," he says. "Within two hours it had gone viral, and we ended up with more than 10,000 videos, which we narrowed down to 80."
They were inundated by requests for media credentials from all over the world, but Stulin was still unprepared for the number of peoples who turned out.
"We thought maybe a couple of dozen people would come out, get a case of beer, and watch some cat videos. But they just kept coming and coming and coming, to the point where it shut down the freeways. People were spilling out on the streets and onto the neighbors' lawns. It was the most attended, most media-covered event in the 75 years of the Walker Art Center."
"Only one: having to deal with the cats' agents. Yes, several of the videos have agents."