The stars brought their A game to kick off 2020. Robert De Niro, Laura Dern, Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Lopez are just a few of the Hollywood names that attended the Palm Springs International Film Society’s International Film Awards Gala on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

I was there, too, getting my own star treatment before, during and after the big night by the Greater Palm Springs CVB.

This year the festival celebrates its 31st year—it was championed by none other than Sonny Bono—and includes 12 days of events and film screenings featuring over 200 films from more than 60 countries. 

“The Palm Springs International Film Festival brings worldwide attention to Greater Palm Springs,” said Mark Crabb, chief sales officer for the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It is an opportunity for us to showcase the unique experiences and venues available to meeting planners in Greater Palm Springs.”


Photo: Lobby, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa. Credit: Lani Garfield

My festival experience kicked off with an over-the-top Gatsby reception at the host property, the recently renovated JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa.

I checked into a large suite overlooking the pool complex, golf course and mountains, getting my first taste of the property-wide renovations that took place in the past year. Included were the resort’s 884 guest rooms and suites.


Photo: Gala After Party at the Parker Palm Springs. Credit: Lani Garfield

The reception was in the Sinatra Ballroom, which featured a live band, old movies playing on the screens and an ice sculpture of a movie camera pouring out martinis. Not a bad way to ring in the first day of the new year.

Overall, the resort boasts nearly 234,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

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After a day of hair and makeup, our group had our own red carpet in the resort’s Aquifer65 Lobby Bar. We were then off to the Palm Springs Convention Center to walk the red carpet alongside reporters, fans who had been camping out for days and the stars themselves.

As the actors accepted awards, we got a recap of their past projects and preview of their current films. Many mentioned how Palm Springs and its surrounding cities is a special place for them.

The evening didn’t end after the last award—the Sonny Bono Visionary Award was given to Martin Scorsese—but instead everyone headed to the nearby Parker Palm Springs for the after party.

(Photo: Robert De Niro Presents the Sonny Bono Visionary Award to Martin Scorsese for The Irishman. Credit: Kate Cripe.)

In the property’s Grand Ballroom and adjacent garden (which was tented for the event), food was served, and drinks were poured alongside music and a sight of the stars in their VIP area.

The next day I got a closer look at the changes and upgrades that have taken place at the JW Marriott Desert Springs property, including the reimagined grand lobby entrance as well as the meeting and prefunction spaces. The lobby’s new look showcases the surrounding desert landscape with modern and calming elements. The meeting spaces also have a calming feel with lots of blue hues, along with a nod to the area’s famed midcentury modern design.


Photo: Frank Sinatra Adorns the Walls of the Prefunction Space at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa. Credit: Kate Cripe.

My VIP treatment ended with a trip to The Spa at Desert Springs, which, at 38,000 square feet with 48 treatment rooms, a salon, a bistro, fitness facility and saltwater pool, is its own destination within the resort.

Attending the Palm Springs International Film Festival, seeing all the events that surround it and staying at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa highlighted how the desert cities and their properties can host serious conferences, but also throw a heck of a party.

The attending Hollywood A-listers got a lot of the attention at the film festival, but it was really Palm Springs that shined.

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