• 08, JANUARY 2021

How The British Film Institute (BFI) Continued Its Yearly Event Through a New Virtual Format


Having been hit significantly by COVID-19, the film industry has been forced to postpone film production, delay big film releases like James Bond: No Time To Die, and close down cinema branches across the globe. As a way to combat this sudden shift in scheduling within the film industry, cinemas cleverly solved this by putting on old and classic films from years prior, such as the Harry Potter and Back to the Future series.

Fret not, the film industry will always be a massive value creator, the global box office revenues totaled over $42 billion in 2019, an all-time high. Hollywood by itself supports more than 2 million jobs and 400,000 American businesses – and for the UK, British film and TV are worth around £60 million each day to its economy. (Source: WeForum)

Though the COVID-19 pandemic affected many (if not all) of the film industry events – the British Film Institute managed to adapt their yearly event by announcing that they’ll be doing the London Film Festival in a new format. Last year’s 2020 BFI London Film Festival was the first-ever edition of its kind to be widely accessible across the UK, with 50 Virtual Festival Premieres to be enjoyed at home and ran from October 7-18th.

The virtual event consisted of:

  • 50 Virtual Festival Premiere Films (fiction, documentary, animation, artist’s moving image and more)
  • An Introduction or Q&A with the Film’s Director
  • Free-to-access Short Film Programmes
  • Free-to-access Screen Talks with Major Filmmakers and Actors
  • Free-to-access Salons and Roundtables
  • A Brand New Virtual Exhibition of XR and Immersive Art

As every sector of business adapts to a framework of putting on events in a virtual manner, it is more important than ever to understand the implications of its endeavour and how it will help brands reach a wider audience, cost-effectively, and help brands amplify their campaigns long-term.

Let’s see how the BFI organized the London Film Festival and how it unfolded.

It is All About Your Audience

Elevate Virtual

Virtual events such as the BFI London Film Festival invests in professional virtual event staff to make their new proposition run as smoothly and successfully. This means, hiring experienced people who understand the film industry and its many sub-sectors, has hands-on experience with digital events, has the skill to promote and engage film fanatics at the core – with the end goal of delivering a stronger brand amplification, build a loyal community, and a wider reach online.

To meet the demands of the digital landscape, brands must understand that their audience would want the opportunity to be a part of their event, even through digital. By BFI providing a virtual event to their audience and selling e-tickets, they’ve provided film lovers with an opportunity to connect for a unique and innovative festival experience – enjoying both a live and digital screening of an array of films for 12 days. If your customers are willing to adapt to the extraordinary challenges of the year, so should we as brands.

What does the consensus say?

Elevate Virtual

You would think that watching a movie as a resort for an escape would be at the bottom of people’s priorities, but film lovers have spoken. The 64th BFI London Film Festival drew to its highest attendance on record with an overall attendance of over 315,000 members. (Source: BFI)

What does this say about film audiences? It says that if you provide film lovers access to a virtual event that has a culture and a myriad of goodies such as interviews with actors and film directors, free XR versions of a film and a wide array of films to choose from, they will participate. Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival Director says:

“To say we surpassed our own expectations is an understatement. From the feedback we received from audiences and professional colleagues, we all feel LFF came at an important time for the industry, as we all rally together in the face of incredible challenges.

Digital events will be the new norm as the film industry moves forward, especially after attaining success with LFF’s 2020 event. I see most forms of marketing, including the film industry using a hybrid approach in providing their audiences with events such a combination of both a physical and virtual events, making it a win-win proposition for everyone.

The numbers don’t lie

Elevate Virtual

Every successful event has to appease both its internal and external stakeholders for it to have a proper conclusion and impact – and the film industry is steadfast to this aspect. The LFF welcomed 1,136 industry and 1,038 press delegates who participated in the industry programme and press offering. The programme featured a diverse selection of 60 feature films (including 3 TV projects) and 57 short films from established and emerging talent. It hosted 6 world premieres, 2 international premieres, 8 European premieres and 43 UK premieres. A total of 41 countries were represented throughout the programme and 39.6% of the features were directed or co-directed by women.

With all the factors that play into making a successful virtual event, one of its unique value proposition is having real-time data feedback as the event unfolds – whether that’s understanding how many viewers a certain film has, understanding the best time audiences join a session, engagement levels on the chatbox, feedback/survey results, and attendance rates. Data, more so than ever is continually evolving as a means to understand KPIs of events and marketing campaigns in a more streamlined fashion.


What BFI and the film industry wanted to capture through their virtual events was not to disrupt the sector known to stick to its roots, but adapt towards a digital form that still encapsulates ‘the experience’ fans of films have known throughout the decades. 2021 will most likely bring about a continued effort to keep film audiences safe through multiple sanitary stations, socially-distanced seating and face-covering throughout cinema branches, with the eventual aim that the film industry as a whole will be stronger and come to full circle in providing great entertainment for the masses.

It is clear that the rise of the digital age and platforms like Netflix utilizing it (Streaming Video On-Demand model), will disrupt the traditional model of audiences attending physical cinemas. The film industry has always tried to adapt to technology’s advancement and adhere to the demand of moviegoers, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only a reminder of that.

With every crises in the entertainment industry, there always seems to be greater opportunities emerging from creative innovations. Film and entertainment will always be a part of our day to day experience as it connects to many other sectors such as technology, audio, events, marketing, entertainment, and video. And as the adage says, the show must go on! And it will…

In summary:

  • The film industry is adapting to the digital age by using virtual events to reach their audience
  • Virtual events will be the norm moving forwards and will be implemented as a hybrid model for brands
  • BFI’s London Film Festival drew its highest attendance to date, having over 315,000 members join the virtual event globally
  • Successful virtual events are driven by brands that create and sustain a culture with support from technology and highly-trained and experienced staff that understand their core audience
  • Data insight from events will become more streamlined and provide brands instant and direct feedback from their events

If you’re looking to learn more about virtual event staffing and discuss how it can be implemented within your next marketing event campaign, contact us and we’d be more than glad to talk through it with you for your next event!

Contact us for your next virtual event staffing needs HERE.

Author: Jonathan MilanesDigital Marketing Manager at Elevate


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