Fest summit explores challenges of digital

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LONDON -- Delegates attending Europe's first International Film Festival Summit on Wednesday heard that the theatrical exhibition business is here to stay and digital technology should be regarded as an opportunity, not a threat.

The one-day event brought together several top-flight festival programmers and directors to discuss the future of film festivals and the challenges facing them.

"Cinema is not going away," London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron told delegates during her keynote, adding that the social function of people gathering to watch movies will "always be needed."

Hebron also said there will always be room for festivals to screen projects that would never normally find distribution. "That is what we do, people come to us and our festivals to see those films," she said.

Hebron noted that technology and the emergence of new ways to consume films must be embraced as ways of bolstering audiences and raising awareness for festivals around the globe. "Everyone is looking to expand the audience for film through new technology," she said.

Earlier in the day, a panel of three festival directors from across Europe all agreed that the emergence of digital technology will increase the amount of work for festival selectors.

The panel, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter, included Thessaloniki Film Festival director Despina Mouzaki, Edinburgh International Film Festival artistic director Hannah McGill and Cinekid International Festival manager Monique Ruinen.

All three agreed that the birth of digital filmmaking technology has resulted in an upsurge in festival submissions. "But that's our job to sift through them," McGill said. She also pointed out that digital formats were "quicker and easier to turn off" during the selection process.

Ruinen said that her festival, aimed at children between the ages of four and 14, has almost certainly benefited from digital formats. And Mouzaki pointed to a recent strategy at Thessaloniki to include a digital movie sidebar as one of its main strands.

"We have seen a huge increase in the number of Greek digital submissions for that dedicated sidebar already and our festival is not until November this year," Mouzaki said.
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