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The festival did drop ticket prices and had fewer films booked this year. Over the 12 days, there were 97 in-cinema events and 96 virtual events, which included both screenings and Behind the Screen panel discussions. The festival also operated on a much tighter budget, which was made possible by the lack of galas, red carpet events and visiting international filmmakers.
Still, considering that the festival’s attendance in the past few years tended to be between 35,000 and 40,000, this year’s numbers are promising given the circumstances, Schroeder said. Roughly 15 per cent of all online streams came from outside of Calgary after the festival opened up online viewership to Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Schroeder said all in-cinema screenings were done in accordance, and often beyond, the health recommendations and restrictions put in place by Alberta Health. Still, he admits the plan to hold in-cinema screenings was a bit of a gamble when the decision was made back in May.
“It hadn’t been announced that theatres would open again,” Schroeder said. “To use the old Gretzky saw: ‘We were trying to skate towards where we thought the puck was going, not to where it was.’ When you’re threatened with uncertainty, one of the things that you need to do is give yourself options and make sure those options are mutually reinforcing. Online was opening up as a new and necessary space for us to go into to execute the festival. At the same time, we wanted to be able to do in-cinema screenings if they were allowed. So we began planning for those to co-exist together and synthesized to one experience.”