Organizers switch festival to early summer

The Edinburgh Film Festival is on the move, shifting from August to June starting next year.

The date change is a bold attempt to boost the profile of the fest and give it room to grow by separating it from the larger Edinburgh Festival, the world’s biggest arts shindig, which occupies the Scottish capital throughout August.

It also will remove the fest from the shadow of the big fall film festivals, such as Venice and Toronto. In its new slot, Edinburgh will run immediately before Karlovy Vary.

“June will give us the breathing space to expand and create our own distinct identity,” said Hannah McGill, who’s in her first year as artistic director.

“Logistically, a June event is better placed in the ever-crowded international film festival calendar,” she added. “Moreover, in the less-crowded context of our new June dates, we will be better placed to attract the maximum status and publicity for the films we show.”

Next year’s event will run June 18-29. This year’s 61st edition opens Aug. 15 with David Mackenzie’s “Hallam Foe” and closes Aug. 26 with Julie Delpy’s “Two Days in Paris.”

The Edinburgh Festival, which spans theater, comedy, opera, books and TV, puts a huge demand on the city’s facilities. By switching to June, film fest organizers hope to gain more flexibility to restructure their event, and by moving out of the summer vacation, they also hope to attract a stronger industry presence.

Any date switch creates new clashes and challenges, however. Edinburgh has always picked up movies from Cannes in May, but with only a month between the two events, that will become virtually impossible.

Moreover, some distribs argue that it may be more difficult to persuade talent and media to make the trip to Edinburgh in June without the rest of the arts festival to tempt them.

Edinburgh Film Festival managing director Ginnie Atkinson said that the decision on the shift had not been made “without long consideration of the success we have enjoyed as being an integral part of the August group. But we have to look to the longer term, and now is the right time. The move to June will be a major help in sustaining growth.

“It also makes it more affordable and practical for filmgoers and filmmakers both from home and abroad to visit and stay in the city at that time.”

Robert Mitchell, managing director of Buena Vista Intl. (U.K.), said, “This new date opens a real opportunity for the EIFF to stand alone in a crowded festival market.”

Actress Tilda Swinton, patron of the film festival, added her voice in support. Filmmakers worldwide value the fest “as a proper adventure, with an identity of its own, invoking a spirit of the new and altogether a reputation for downright fun,” she said. “Coming in June, after Cannes and before the Venice/Toronto logjam, a conversational/discovery-based, non-competitive festival could only enhance this holiday atmosphere for the film community.”

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