The Berlin Film Festival is still planning a physical event in February but will reduce its lineup in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, the festival has confirmed.
The event, which is due to run February 11-21, has said it is “too early to consider cancellation”.
Tickets for screenings will have to be pre-booked and capacity in cinemas will be reduced by 45-50% in order to abide by social distancing rules.
The festival confirmed to us today that the Competition and Encounters sections will not be impacted by the planned streamlining, but larger sections such as Generation and Panorama will slim down their programs.
A festival spokesperson told us: “The Berlinale still plans to take place as a physical event in February. Press screenings and public screenings will take place, as always, in the cinemas, but access will be possible only with pre-booked tickets for allocated seats.
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“The health of our visitors and guests is certainly our top priority. With extensive COVID-19 regulations, we would like to ensure the health and well-being of all of our festival guests. We hope that the current Covid measures will prove effective and that travel restrictions will ease. Should we have to make a decision about cancelling the festival, this would have to be agreed closely with the authorities. It is currently too early to consider such a significant step.”
They continued: “Due to Covid 19 regulations the seating capacity in the cinemas is reduced to 45- 50% and therefore we will adjust the total number of films to give the individual film the reachout to audiences it deserves. The number of films in Competition and the Encounters section will not be affected. Other larger sections such as Generation and Panorama will slim down their lineups. Final figures can not be determined yet.”
Festival executive director Mariette Rissenbeek first noted the reduced selection yesterday in a video interview with Screen.
With around 300,000 tickets sold and 500,000 admissions each year, the Berlinale has the largest public attendance of any annual film festival. It has been held every year since its inception in 1951.
This year, the festival’s market (the EFM) is adopting a hybrid approach with some events and screenings happening online. Only market badge holders will have access to the market hub, the MGB. The festival has reduced the cost of most market badges and EFM badges bought in advance can be swapped for online badges nearer the time if required.
As with many European countries, the number of new COVID cases in Germany has been rising steadily over the last six weeks. There were more than 23,000 new cases yesterday and 296 deaths.
Germany is currently in the third week of a four-week partial lockdown. Bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and music venues are all closed and households can only meet with one other household in groups of up to 10. Cinemas are planning to reopen on December 3. The country also has strict international travel restrictions in place. Every arrival from a high-risk country – including most European countries and the U.S. – must self-isolate for 10 days and then take a COVID test.
A number of festival and market regulars we have spoken to have told us they are unlikely to attend the event. But things can change quickly. Here’s to hoping that the nightmare that is COVID begins to ease soon and the famous old festival is able to go ahead safely with something resembling its usual character. We know a number of international films have already been invited and the festival has said that submissions are up year-on-year.