Edinburgh International Film Festival to stage open-air screenings as August comeback plans are revealed

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is to make a comeback this summer with a mix of free open-air screenings, red carpet premieres and an online showcase of new movies.

Celebrations of cinema will be staged at Port Edgar Marina at South Queensferry and St Andrew Square Garden in the New Town under plans to put the event at the heart of the city’s revived cultural festivities in August.

Gala screenings will be back at the Filmhouse, the long-time headquarters of the festival, which dates back to 1947, while other venues could be used for the festival’s opening and closing galas.

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The festival is expected to boast its usual mix of red-carpet premieres, post-screening Q&As, debates, workshops and interview events, although some guests are likely to make virtual appearances.

The EIFF, which has billed this year’s festival as “a celebration of the return to cinemas and the collective cinema experience,” plans to join forces with screening venues throughout Scotland to showcase new films in its programme.

All of the outdoor screenings will be free events but will be ticketed to manage crowd number and ensure social distancing restrictions can be enforced.

The full programme will be announced at the end of July, when tickets go on sale.

The film festival has revealed its plans for the summer ahead of next week’s launch of the Edinburgh International Festival programme. It has already unveiled plans to stage shows at three temporary outdoor venues.

Open-air film screenings will be returning to St Andrew Square in August. Picture: Laura Shand

Tickets have gone on sale for the first Fringe shows, while the children’s, art, jazz and science festivals have also revealed plans to return. However the Tattoo was called off last week due to the uncertainty over the restrictions which will be in place over the summer.

The first EIFF events will run on 31 July and 1 August, when Port Edgar Marina plays host to “Firth on the Forth” screenings programmed specially for the waterside setting.

The main festival, which will run from 18-25, will include a week of outdoor screenings in St Andrew Square Garden, which has regularly hosted film events in recent years and will also be part of the science festival programme this summer.

Festival chief executive Ken Hay said: “For all of the festivals in the city it has been about trying to create a festive atmosphere this year.

Crowds have flocked to St Andrew Square in Edinburgh for film screenings in previous years. Picture: Lloyd Smith

“Festivals are all about bringing people together. We’re fully aware that there will be lots of constraints over bringing people from other parts of the world to the UK, but we’re really keen to ensure that we have real people in audiences and have real people in front of those audiences.

“We want to very much say: ‘This isn’t just an online festival.’ One could argue that it’s hard to do anything online that is festive. What makes film different and what makes the culture sector different is the way it brings people together.

"It’s about how we use that this year to bring people back together to celebrate that communal experience which has been missing from the last 14 or 15 months. All of the festivals are looking at how we can make that work in August.

“I’m really excited. We’re going to be very different. All of the other festivals are going to be too.

The Edinburgh International Festival will be heading to South Queensferry to stage open-air screenings this summer. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

“That’s a really good thing as it means we have the opportunity to try things out that we’ve maybe not have been able to do in the past.

“For all of us, it is clearing the way for what happens from 2022 onwards and how we challenge ourselves about what festivals look like in the longer term.”

Isabel Davis, executive director at Screen Scotland, said: “As people start to come back together over the summer it's exciting that EIFF will offer audiences in Edinburgh, Scotland and across the UK a celebration of the communal experience of cinema.

“Filmhouse will once more play host but this year the festival will also animate the city, from its centre to its shore, as well as offer an accessible, digital programme will enable audiences unable to attend in person to experience the festival online.”

Donald Wilson, culture convener at the city council, said: “We’re proud to continue our support of the world’s oldest continuous film festival which explores new ideas in filmmaking and is known for heralding and debating the latest developments in cinema.

“It was much missed last year and I look forward to the return to the collective cinema experience with events and screenings planned for the Filmhouse and St Andrew Square as well as the online platform for audiences to enjoy from home.”

The Edinburgh International Film Festival will be moving back to August this summer.

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