Edinburgh Film Festival sees 10% ticket sales rise

EIFF Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara and CEO Ken Hay. Picture: Neil Hanna
EIFF Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara and CEO Ken Hay. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The Edinburgh International Film Festival has completed its recovery from a disastrous revamp after recording a 10 per cent rise in audience numbers since last year’s event.

The official box office figure of around 44,000 was the same as the festival notched up in 2010 - the year before the long-running event’s audience figures suffered a dramatic collapse.

Around 40,000 admissions were recorded in 2012, compared to 34,464 in 2011, when the festival controversially axed its main awards and red carpet premieres, and moved screenings out of its main complex at Cineworld in Fountainbridge.

This year’s final tally marks a significant recovery for an event which has struggled to re-establish itself since splitting from the city’s other flagship summer festivals five years ago.

EIFF audience figures declined each year until 2012, when new artistic director Chris Fujiwara took the helm of the world’s longest-running film festival.

However, this year’s figure is still around 5,000 less than the festival recorded in 2009, which marked the end of Sir Sean Connery’s involvement with the event when he stood down as patron.

The first year of the move from the festival’s traditional slot in August, which was aimed at raising the profile of the event and moving its dates away from rival festivals in Toronto, Venice and London, saw 52,175 people attend screenings.

As with other major events like the Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival, the film festival describes its final box office total as overall attendance or admissions.

These include complimentary tickets to official delegates, guests and registered media.

This year’s 10 per cent increase was notched up despite its longest-running venue, the Cameo, being dropped from the programme over concerns about the quality of its screens.

Ken Hay, the festival’s chief executive, said: “The audience numbers are important to us, but so is the audience reaction to our programme, and we’re delighted with how that has gone this year.

“As well as the increase in the number of admissions, there have been unprecedented levels of online interaction across multiple digital platforms, which has really helped to spread the word on films.

“The overall figure does include tickets for delegates, visiting film-makers, guests and media, but in total we had 1,200 people registered for the event this year. A huge number of them were from outwith the city.

“It would certainly be good to increase this year’s figure over the next few years and Chris and I will certainly be aiming to do that, as part of a much rounder picture.”

This year’s event opened with American drama Breathe In and closed with the Glasgow-set romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending.

It was a particularly strong year for Scottish films premiered at the festival, with plaudits for Blackbird, For Those In Peril and Fire in the Night, a documentary on the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster.

Robert Carlyle, Brian Cox, Kevin McKidd, Kate Dickie, Gary Lewis, Karen Gillan and Ewen Bremner were among the high-profile Scottish stars to grace the red carpet.

Steve Cardownie, the city council’s festivals and events champion, said: “The council is a major funder and keen supporter of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and naturally I am delighted by the success of this year’s event.

“Attendances were healthy, up for a second year running, and the audience response to the programme was extremely positive. “I look forward to this trend continuing into 2014 and beyond.”

Admission figures

2013: 44,000

2012: 40,000,

2011: 34,464

2010: 44,456

2009: 49,569

2008: 52,175