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The Venice International Film Festival provided a data snapshot of its 78th edition on Tuesday — and the numbers, so far, show what a COVID-19-era comeback can look like for a well-managed A-list event operating under public safety protocols.
Organizers said Venice has issued 9,800 accreditations to international guests so far this year, up from 6,908 by the end of the 2020 festival and 12,800 at the end of the pre-COVID 2019 edition. Tickets sold to the public revealed a similar comeback, with 23,713 already issued, compared to just 13,162 for the entire event last year, and 28,741 in 2019.
The event hasn’t been without a few hiccups though, as the return to normal ticketing demand has intersected with the realities of COVID safety requirements.
Security and safety protocols this year are broadly similar to those put in place in 2020 when Venice was the only major film festival to hold an in-person event amid the pandemic. However, the overwhelming success Venice had in holding a safe event last year, combined with a remarkably strong film lineup and greater travel freedoms throughout much of the West, has resulted in bumper attendance bumping into public safety controls.
Capacity in Venice’s cinemas remains capped at 50 percent for social distancing and all tickets have to be booked in advance on the festival’s online ticketing platform. The festival has added several additional screening venues this year to help cope with the distancing requirements. The total number of cinema seats at the festival this year is 4,128, down from 6,048 in 2019, when theater capacity was at 100 percent.
Still, guests have been grumbling since the first days of the festival about the difficulty of scoring a seat for the hottest titles if you fail to log-in to the system immediately after tickets become available 48 hours in advance of each screening.
Some critics complained early in the festival about being held up at security checkpoints and in the long lines at the entry to screenings, which resulted in them arriving late to some of the first press showings of high-profile premieres like Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God.
But guests have overwhelmingly praised the event’s sense of safety and world-renowned relaxed Italian atmosphere. As of Sept. 5, which was day five of the event’s 11-day run, Venice reported that credited attendees had taken 2,000 rapid antigen COVID tests, which had turned up only five false positives, meaning no COVID infections have so far been discovered at the festival.
COVID tests are provided for free at the event, but taking them is mandatory every 48 hours if you are not fully vaccinated. The festival said 10 percent of registered guests are unvaccinated and have submitted to the regular testing. The percentages for the ticket-buying public in Venice was said to be comparable.
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