Edinburgh film festival records highest audience since dates switch

Artistic director Mark Adams was at the helm of the festival for the third year.
Artistic director Mark Adams was at the helm of the festival for the third year.
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The Edinburgh International Film Festival has reported its highest box office figures since the event moved from its traditional August slot.

More than 53,000 film fans flocked to the event during its 70th anniversary year.

This year’s tally was the highest figure recorded since the controversial move away from the city’s other main festivals in 2008, when 52,175 people attended events.

The admissions figure was nearly 20,000 more than that recorded in 2011 when the festival staged a controversial experiment to drop red carpet premieres, lavish parties and its long-standing awards.

The event has seen steady growth since then, with increases recorded for the last six years in a row since the post of artistic director was reinstated in 2012.

A further 20,000 people flocked to St Andrew Square for a series of free film screenings in the weekend before the festival, which was blessed with good weather.

Oliver Stone, Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, Stanley Tucci, Bernard Hill, Richard E Grant and Ewen Bremner were among the red carpet guests at this year’s festival.

Author Ian Rankin, film composer David Arnold, veteran actress Sheila Hancock and Trudie Styler, the actress and producer, also appeared, while the Royal Scottish National Orchestra performed a live soundtrack to the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The 12-day event expanded out of its traditional venues, with special events staged in Leith and Morningside, as well as the Vue complex next to the Playhouse. More than 400 filmmakers, 600 industry delegates and 200 journalists attended the event, which saw an outdoor exhibition of images from the EIFF archives staged around the city.

EIFF artistic director Mark Adams, who was at the helm of the festival for the third time, said the response to this year’s programme had been “very positive”.

He added: “It has been another amazing EIFF and it’s been satisfying and often humbling to receive such a great response from filmmakers, guests and the audience. The city always makes our guests feel welcome and this year there was a real buzz and sense of enthusiasm and appreciation around the festival.

“We started off really strongly with a great atmosphere and a really strong response to the opening film, God’s Own Country. We also had some lovely guests across the opening few days, like Kevin, Kyra, Stanley and Richard, which gave us a real sense of momentum for the rest of the festival.

“I had so many people come up to me to say how much they’ve enjoyed it. A lot of people have come to a lot of films.”

The EIFF announced a shift away from the other August festivals after more than 60 years, citing increased competition and soaring costs. Part of the thinking was to also to allow the festival to use more venues around the city.

Mr Adams said: “It would be impossible of us to use the venues we have used this year if we were still in August. We couldn’t use the Festival Theatre, the Usher Hall, the Royal Lyceum or the Traverse. We want to do more pop-up events, as technology really allows us to do that now. But it’s about showing the right films in the right spaces.”

Ken Hay, EIFF chief executive, added: “We are unashamedly international and outward-looking in our programming and our reach, with 59 countries represented through the programme, our filmmakers and industry guests, and our truly multi-national team delivering the event.

“We’re delighted audiences and guests have responded so positively to the programme and the broader festival experience.”

Robbie Allen, senior screen executive at Creative Scotland, one of the festival’s key funders, said: “Featuring an impressive array of films from around the world, great audience and industry events, creative discussion, and an excellently curated retrospective, EIFF’s 70th anniversary ­edition has captured the imagination of local and international audiences.”

BACKGROUND

The Edinburgh International Film Festival sprung a major surprise a decade ago when it announced it would be staged around two months earlier than normal.

The move, overseen by then artistic director Hannah McGill, broke the 60-year-old link between the world’s longest continually-running film festival and both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe.

The move was aimed at securing a less-crowded slot in the international festival calendar, away from long-standing rivals like Venice and Toronto. But it was also planned to give the EIFF “breathing space” in Edinburgh to allow the event to create its own separate identity.

The festival felt is stood a greater chance of media coverage outwith August, when the cost of hotel accommodations and air fairs was also much higher.

The move has allowed the festival to stage events in venues which are normally fully occupied in August, including the Festival Theatre, which hosts the opening and closing galas, the Usher Hall, where classical concerts are staged, and the Traverse Theatre, the EIFF delegate centre.