In 2002, the Tribeca Film Institute successfully launched the First Annual Tribeca Film Festival. Created by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro, the mission of the Tribeca Film Festival is to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience. The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.
After only 120 days of planning and with the help of more than 1,300 volunteers, the inaugural Festival became a critical and popular success. It was attended by more than 150,000 people, generated more than $ 10.4 million in revenues for local Tribeca merchants, and featured several up-and-coming filmmakers. The festival included juried narrative, documentary and short film competitions; a Restored Classics series; a Best of New York series curated by Martin Scorsese; 13 major panel discussions; an all-day Family Festival; and the premieres of studio films Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, About A Boy, Insomnia, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival brought more than 300,000 people downtown and in excess of $50 million to the local economy. The May 2003 Festival showcased an expanded grouping of independent features, documentaries and short films from around the world, coupled with studio premieres, panel discussions, music and comedy concerts, a family festival, sports activities, and outdoor "drive-in" movie screenings along the Hudson River.
The two-weekend family festival was an extravaganza of children's movie screenings, storytelling, family panels, workshops, and interactive games culminating in a daylong street fair that drew a crowd estimated at 250,000 people.
Additional programs included Martin Scorsese's Restoration Film Series, and the Black Filmmaker Foundation's 25th Anniversary Celebration, which highlighted the 10 most influential African-American films of the 20th Century.