Santa Barbara Film Festival Sets Plans For Hybrid Event With Drive-In And Virtual Screenings Of Record 100+ Films

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara Film Festival, taking place two months later than usual this year due to changes in the awards season because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be a hybrid of virtual and live programming for the 36th annual event, which runs March 31-April 10.

SBIFF said Tuesday that it is planning an elaborate build-out of two beachside drive-in theatres hosted at Santa Barbara City College and presented by Toyota Mirai. They will show 80-plus film screenings, all offered for free. RSVPing prior to arriving will be required.

“It’s imperative we bring a sense of hopefulness to 2021, but in the safest way possible,” says Roger Durling, SBIFF’s executive director. “A virtual component was a given, but experiencing movies in socially distanced cars and being by the ocean felt oh so perfectly Santa Barbara, California.”

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray in 'On the Rocks'
Apple TV+

Passes for the 2021 festival are now on sale, as are tickets for the celebrity tributes. In addition to the drive-ins, SBIFF will offer a full-scale, ticketed virtual component featuring online film screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels and tributes. To date, SBIFF has announced tribute honorees including Bill Murray, Sacha Baron Cohen, Delroy Lindo and Amanda Seyfried, as well as the Virtuosos evening which this year includes Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Andra Day, Sidney Flanigan, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim and Zendaya.

The tributes and industry panels will be aired live over the festival’s virtual platform. Traditionally these tributes are tied to performers who are strong Oscar contenders, and the fest is considered a must-stop for nominees before final voting begins.

The festival said that SBIFF programmers have, despite the pandemic, received a record number of film submissions this year, assembling what they call an impressive and diverse lineup that includes more than 100 films, many of them world and U.S. premieres; the lineup and schedule will be announced in early March.

“We have poured all of our creativity into this plan and are very proud of the shape it is taking. SBIFF 2021 will be completely unique and marked by the excellence SBIFF is known for,” Durling said.

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