Int'l Film Fest summit bows in Europe

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LONDON -- Delegates attending the first International Film Festival summit to be held in Europe heard Wednesday cinema in movie-theaters is here to stay and digital technology should be regarded as an opportunity not a threat.

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

London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron, giving the day's keynote address, told delegates that "cinema is not going away" and that the social function of people gathering to watch movies together in theaters will "always be needed."

Hebron also said there will always be room for festivals to screen projects that would never normally find their way into distribution, amid all the world prems and red carpet shindigs the big festivals provide.

"That is what we [film festivals] do, people come to us and our festivals to see those films," she said.

She also told delegates about the findings of a recent temperature take of the festival scene carried out by the London Film Festival organizers who asked other fests including those held in Brisbane, Thessaloniki and Karlovy Vary what they thought on a plethora of topics.

Hebron noted that technology and the emergence of new ways to consume films were to 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," Hebron added.

Earlier in the day a panel of three festival directors from across Europe all agreed the emergence of digital technology would see an increase in the amount of work for festival selectors to do.

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 technology to make movies had seen an upsurge in the number of festival submissions. "But that's our job to sift through them," Gill said. She also pointed out that digital formats were "quicker and easier to turn off" during the selection process.

Ruinen said that her festival, which is set up and aimed at children between 4 and 14, had almost certainly benefited from digital formats. And Mouzaki pointed to a recent strategy at Thessaloniki to include a digital movie side bar 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 noted.
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