Film Festivals 2020: A New Normal

2020 presented a shock to most industries, with the onset of the Coronavirus disrupting how almost everything is done. The film industry took an especially huge hit given most of its activities- shooting, cinema viewing, festivals, etc. – involve many people coming together.

Most film festivals that were scheduled between May and August had to be cancelled or postponed, given most parts of the world went into lockdown. These included the likes of Comic-Con, Cannes, Mumbai and Munich Film Festivals.

The world appeared to be creeping out of the pandemic towards the end of August and some film festivals were able to run. A few of these ran physically, such as the Hamptons International, Hamburg, Haifa, and El Gouna Film Festival. Several had a mix of physical and online screenings, while others went online altogether. The New York Film Festival, for instance, ran its 2020 edition through online and outdoor screenings.

Sadly, the world in November appears to be going through a second wave of the virus, again hurting the film festival industry as it looks to re-emerge. So, what does the future of this entertainment sub-sector look like?

New Ways of Presenting and Consuming Film Festivals

Even where organisers were able to put together physical attendance festivals, a lot of adjustments had to be made. New York had to move its physical screenings outside. Usually, due to health directives and people’s precautionary nature, these events recorded a largely reduced attendance. With the virus appearing to stick around for a while longer, this means that a new way of presenting and consuming film festivals is of essence.

Online Screening

The internet has been a saviour in many ways during this pandemic, and it appears like the saving grace for film festivals too. However, the model has to be approached with great care. It has to be remembered that when people attend film festivals, they do it for more than just the screenings. These are the same films they could watch at home without the cost of attending the festival. How, then, do organisers ensure they maintain the festival atmosphere when delivering online?

As an organiser, there is a need to focus more on new releases when screening online. Suddenly, marketing becomes even more important because the hype will be needed to attract virtual attendees. Additionally, getting film stars to appear virtually before viewers will add to the excitement. Involvement of the viewers themselves in the whole process will be equally important.

That said, the relevance of film festivals will largely depend on their ability to maintain the physical aspect. Working around health directives and assuring attendees of their safety will be key areas of focus.

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