Photo by Emanuel Wallace
Opening night at CIFF 46
A new venue for the first time in 30 years, a hybrid model that also offered virtual screenings, a shorter festival calendar and fewer screens and movies are just a few of the reasons that the 46th annual Cleveland International Film Festival drew about one-quarter of the in-person attendance this year than it did in 2019, the last time CIFF was held at Tower City and the last year before the pandemic interrupted programming.
Organizers today announced CIFF had 28,567 attendees at Playhouse Square and 48,964 viewers online.
Though each of the last five festivals at Tower City drew more than 100,000 moviegoers, organizers said they are pleased with the turnout given the multitude of changes CIFF underwent since 2019.
“Our organization is deeply grateful to everyone who supported and experienced our move to Playhouse Square and joined us online," CIFF executive director Marcie Goodman said in a press release. "Together we started all over, and what a magical and amazing new start it was!”
With a reduced calendar (just 11 days this year), 25 percent fewer screenings than offered in 2019, and six screens at Playhouse Square compared to 10 at Tower City, shifts were to be expected.
“Name something we didn’t change up. There’s no apples-to-apples (comparison) going on with us at the moment. That’s for sure,” Goodman told Cleveland.com
. “I think our attendance was fantastic for our first year at Playhouse Square.”
As Scene's Sam Allard noted in a column before the fest
, it wasn't just the venue change that left him and others feeling less excited than in previous years.
"Part of the explanation may be Covid," he wrote. "Part of it may be the proliferation of streaming video services that grant me access to a splendid array of emerging filmmakers and foreign fare at low cost already."
That, as much as anything else, might explain the surprisingly robust online viewership stats.
Still, Goodman said CIFF was pleased to get its bearings at its new home and excited to get working on making next year's iteration even better.