Glasgow Film Festival reveals plans to return in 'hybrid' form to stage cinema premieres

The Glasgow Film Festival, the last major event to go ahead in Scotland before the coronavirus lockdown, has revealed plans to return in a “hybrid” form in 2021 to allow its audiences to attend premieres of new movies again.

The Glasgow Film Festival is planning screenings at its long-standing home at the GFT when it returns in the spring.
The Glasgow Film Festival is planning screenings at its long-standing home at the GFT when it returns in the spring.

New movies will be screened at the festival’s historic home at the Glasgow Film Theatre, as long as cinemas are allowed to open under any coronavirus restrictions the city is under in the spring.

The festival will also be allowing fans to stream many of the films in its line-up from the comfort of their own homes, as well as creating a programme of online events.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

However organisers have ruled out attempting to stage any of the festival’s hugely popular pop-up events next year due to the likely prospect of social distancing restrictions remaining in place in the spring.

And special guests are likely to make their appearances online rather than on the festival’s red carpet.

The event notched up a record overall audience of more than 43,000 this year, with special guests including Simon Pegg, George Mackay, Imogen Poots, Celia Imrie, Bill Paterson and Alice Winocour.

However the GFT is expected to have to operate well below capacity throughout the 17th edition of the festival in February and March.

Allison Gardner, co-director of the festival, said: “Obviously the best case scenario for us is that we are allowed to sell tickets for every seat in the GFT and there is no physical distancing, but I suspect that is probably not going to be the case.

“So we are planning to have screenings with physical distancing in place, unless we are in another lockdown. We will also make a number of those films available to watch online.

“We’ll have a similar mixture to the London Film Festival, where some films were only in cinemas and some of them were only available online.

“It’s very important to have an element of the programme which will allow people to watch films online. There will still be a huge percentage of the population who are not comfortable about going to the cinema. We want to make sure they’re included in the festival like they normally are.

"But nothing can really replace watching a film in the cinema. People keep saying that it’s dead, that’s been said so many times in the past. It will always endure as a space where you can feel fully immersed in a collective shared experience.

The Glasgow Film Festival's red carpet events have been a familiar sight outside the GFT. Picture: Pete Copeland

"It is genuinely a safe experience going to the cinema. There have been no Covid-19 outbreaks associated with cinemas anywhere in the world.

“Our programme will be heavily restricted. We won’t have anything close to the 180 features we had this year, but we’ll probably have three screenings a day at each of our three screens.

"We won’t be able to do pop-up events. They’re normally very expensive to run, but usually wash their face. You couldn’t do that with physical distancing in place.

"We’re not even close to finalising a programme, because everything has been put on hold in the industry. It’s been such a difficult year for everybody.

The Glasgow Film Theatre is the home of the city's hugely-popular film festival. Picture: Eoin Carey

"A lot of filmmakers haven’t made up their minds on what’s happening with their films and many distributors don’t know their release dates yet. It’s been a whole new learning curve for us.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.