Edinburgh film festival nets 7-year attendance high

Karen Gillan served on one of the prize juries. Picture: Robert PerryKaren Gillan served on one of the prize juries. Picture: Robert Perry
Karen Gillan served on one of the prize juries. Picture: Robert Perry
THE Edinburgh International Film Festival has scored its highest attendance for seven years under a new artistic director.

More than 50,000 film fans flocked to the event for the first time since 2008, the year of its controversial relocation from August to June.

Organisers said there had been a nine per cent increase in admissions, the term used to measure festival box office figures, in the space of 12 months.

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The improved performance of the EIFF under Mark Adams, who only officially took up the post in March, is expected to bolster the case for keeping the festival in its June slot.

An expanded programme saw the number of world and European premieres double, while special events included a sold-out gala screening of 1980s classic Back to the Future, accompanied by a live concert from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

This year’s tally does not include the 14,600 people who attended two weekends of open-air film screenings in the Grassmarket and St Andrew Square.

This year saw the return of a host of big-names like Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor, both of whom unveiled new films, in one of the strongest home-grown line-ups for years.

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Karen Gillan served on one of the prize juries and was named as one of the event’s new patrons, along with fellow actor James Cosmo, who was honoured for best performance in a British film for The Pyramid Texts. Other stars to grace the red carpet included Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, former Bond girl Jane Seymour, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, and The Newsroom star Emily Mortimer.

This summer marks the first time the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe will be held on the same dates for 17 years, and preparations are already underway for the landmark 70th season of events next summer.

But it is thought the film festival, which also shares the landmark festivals anniversary, is expected to remain in early summer for the foreseeable future, even though ticket sales are still not as high as they were a decade ago.

The EIFF’s surprise move out of August, announced just before the 2007 event took place, was intended to help the festival compete better with rival events and secure better international media coverage, and was backed by leading supporters like Sir Sean Connery and Tilda Swinton.

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However EIFF attendances went on the slide over the next four years, a string of key figures left the event and it lost out on a number of major Scottish films, including Sunshine on Leith, Filth, The Railway Man, Under the Skin, and What We Did On Our Holiday.

Mr Adams, an experienced film critic, had promised to look at the timing of the event after he took over from Chris Fujiwara, who left the post suddenly last September after just three years, even though attendances had gradually recovered during his reign, from a low of 34,000, in 2011, when the event did not have an artistic director.

Ken Hay, the festival’s chief executive, said: “There have been some truly memorable moments at the festival this year. Our audiences have obviously responded to our rich and diverse programme and we are thrilled to see the increase in admissions.”

Natalie Usher, director of film at Creative Scotland, said: “We were delighted to see such a large number and variety of projects with a Scottish connection screening throughout the festival.”