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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

MIFF's Online 2020 Film Festival Was the Largest Ever in the Event's 69-Year History

Before its final weekend even started, the festival had clocked up more than 205,000 streams — and a national audience of over 307,500 viewers.
By Sarah Ward
August 26, 2020
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MIFF's Online 2020 Film Festival Was the Largest Ever in the Event's 69-Year History

Before its final weekend even started, the festival had clocked up more than 205,000 streams — and a national audience of over 307,500 viewers.
By Sarah Ward
August 26, 2020
  shares

Among the many trends that have popped up in 2020, major film festivals streaming their programs to the online masses ranks among the better developments. It's a one that, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, seemed rather unlikely — Australia's major film festivals want cinemagoers to head along in-person, after all, and soak in the silver screen magic in a darkened cinema surrounded by a movie-loving crowd — but with gathering and venue bans and limits in place to tackle the coronavirus, digital film fests swiftly became a reality for Aussie audiences.

The Melbourne International Film Festival's 2020 online version, dubbed MIFF 68 1/2, ran from Thursday, August 6–Sunday, August 23 — and, in news that should come as a surprise to no one, it amassed quite the audience. In fact, the virtual event and its 100-plus film program nabbed the beloved Victorian fest its biggest crowd yet. Given this is the festival's whopping 69th year, that's quite an achievement.

Before the closing weekend had even kicked off, Australians had streamed MIFF's films more than 205,000 times — reaching an approximate national audience of over 307,500. Around 20 percent of those viewers are estimated to have come from outside of Victoria, too.

If you're wondering which flicks everyone was checking out, of the top three movies, two — documentary Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky and comedy Paper Champions — were Aussie-made titles. Also popular, accounting for 69 percent of the event's streams until the last three days of the fest, was MIFF's free lineup. It comprised almost two-fifths of the program and, up until the morning of Friday, August 21, notched up 135,000 streams of individual short films.

The benefits of an online film festival — or an online component to a major film festival like MIFF — are many. They're also pretty obvious. For people with disability or chronic health conditions, the digital option makes fests far more accessible. The same applies to movie buffs with children, who work shifts, or who simply can't take 18 days, even a few days or just one night off work to watch films. And, as a fifth of this year's viewers demonstrated, folks who live outside of Victoria still want to be involved as well.

Of course, that Melbourne was under stage four stay-at-home conditions during MIFF's dates, and still is, would've helped. Also playing a part: the fact that Aussies have become pretty accustomed to staying in and getting their movie fix on the couch this year.

MIFF isn't the only Aussie fest taking the online — and national — route in 2020. Among the others, Sydney Film Festival did the same in June, the Revelation Perth International Film Festival held its digital version in July, and the Sydney Underground Film Festival going virtual in September.

The Melbourne International Film Festival is set to return in 2021 from Thursday, August 5–Sunday, August 22.

Top image: Black Bear.

Published on August 26, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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