Edinburgh Film Festival gets box office boost

Ugly Betty star America Ferrera was among the big names at EIFF this year. Picture: Ian GeorgesonUgly Betty star America Ferrera was among the big names at EIFF this year. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ugly Betty star America Ferrera was among the big names at EIFF this year. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has boosted its box office performance for the third year in a row since bringing in a new artistic director to help revive its fortunes.

However, attendances are still significantly lower than when the festival was held in the midst of the Festival Fringe in August, according to figures released yesterday.

Organisers of the event, which retains its crown as Scotland’s biggest cinematic celebration despite growing competition from Glasgow, have revealed a four per cent increase in admissions, which reached 46,000 this year.

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A further 12,000 people flocked to free screenings in the Grassmarket and St Andrew Square in the two weekends 
before the festival began.

There has been a steady 
improvement in the festival’s audience since 2011, when a 
rethink by a new management regime brought such measures as the scrapping of long-standing awards and the shelving of red carpet premieres.

Attendances plummeted by around 10,000 to just 34,464 that year, although the next two festivals overseen by Chris Fujiwara – appointed in September 2011 – saw the final tally rise to 40,000 and 44,000 respectively.But almost 52,000 attended the festival in 2007, the year before a controversial move away from the other summer festivals.

The EIFF wanted to bring forward its dates to reduce the cost of staging the event and avoid competition with other major events, including London’s, and generate a higher profile.

Glasgow Film Festival, launched just a decade ago, broke through the 40,000 admissions barrier for the first time this year.

A host of big names flocked to the EIFF last month, including Miami Vice star Don Johnson, Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera and Scots actor Brian Cox.

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However, the most high-
profile Scottish film to get the red carpet treatment was 
Braveheart, to mark the 20th year since production began.

Other home-grown efforts in the programme included a documentary on the controversy over Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort, and Castles in the Sky, in which Eddie Izzard plays Second World War radar pioneer Robert Watson Watt.

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The festival, which was being held for the 68th time, missed out on a slew of high-profile new Scottish films over the last 12 months, including Filth, 
Sunshine on Leith, The Railway Man and Under The Skin.

However, the festival’s current budget is understood to make a move back to August unlikely.Ken Hay, chief executive of the EIFF, said: “We are delighted audiences have again supported the festival despite football fever and the glorious sunshine.

“An increase in admissions is a testament to the strength and depth of the programme.”

Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion at sponsor 
Edinburgh City Council, said: “The 2014 festival has reached a greater number of viewers than last year and it is fantastic that the uphill trend has continued. I’m sure next year’s programme will prove once again to be a massive draw for audiences.”