Tribeca’s 20th Edition In June To Be First Major North American Festival With In-Person Screenings Since Start Of Pandemic

Overland Entertainment

The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival will have in-person screenings, something no North American fest has done since the start of Covid-19.

A 12-day series of outdoor screenings will highlight the event, which will be the 20th anniversary of the first Tribeca held months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The festival will be the official cap-off to New York State’s ongoing NY PopsUp arts initiative. Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal is also co-head of NYPopsUp.

Screenings will be held June 9 to 20 at a range of public venues across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Confirmed venues include Brookfield Place New York, Pier 57 Rooftop, The Battery, Hudson Yards, Empire Outlets and The MetroTech Commons. In addition to those venues, Tribeca will host community screenings in all New York City boroughs, including the Bronx and Queens, using traveling, 40-foot screens. Tribeca officials said they are working closely with the New York State Department of Health to ensure that public gatherings comply with Covid-19 safety protocols.

The pandemic in 2020 wiped out several festivals, including Cannes, SXSW and Telluride. Other major stops on the circuit, including Venice, Toronto and Sundance, have staged altered events, with limited in-person elements and an emphasis on virtual activities. Only Venice last year has approached normalcy, with press screenings and celebrity appearances but a high degree of coronavirus consciousness has prevailed.

Talent, of course, is the biggest variable in how events can resume. Tribeca is helped by the number of notables from both sides of the camera living in New York. Domestic travel is also ramping up, and New York City officials have estimated that more than half of the city’s 8.7 million residents will be vaccinated by June.

Given New York State’s go-ahead for city movie theaters to reopen with capacity limits, it could be possible for Tribeca to add indoor screenings and events, but nothing on that front has been confirmed. Prospects for a return to familiarity for the fall New York Film Festival are due to get a boost in April when Film at Lincoln Center reopens its screening-room doors. Cannes organizers insist their event will happen in July, but continental Europe has been battling a surge of coronavirus cases and enduring new lockdowns amid vaccination rollout stumbles.

Tribeca’s announcement is aimed at returning the festival to its original role as community gathering place and stimulus for the city’s economy through culture. The city’s arts sector has suffered badly over the past year, with Broadway shuttered along with a range of music halls, theaters and other places that give New York its identity.

“The Tribeca Film Festival was born out of our mission to bring people together in the aftermath of 9/11,” festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a press release. “We’re still doing it. And as New York emerges from the shadow of Covid-19, it seems just right to bring people together again in-person for our 20th anniversary festival.”

Rosenthal called Tribeca “a community of the most resilient and talented storytellers on the planet. In 20 years, our community of creators and partners have become a family. This summer we are excited to reunite as Tribeca becomes a centerpiece of live entertainment in neighborhoods across New York City.”

Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, said the Battery element at Tribeca would help develop Lower Manhattan as “a new center of gravity” for the arts. “It’s only natural that The Tribeca Film Festival will be among those leading the return of arts and culture, as it has consistently enriched the lives of New Yorkers since its inception, by celebrating and showcasing our city,” she said.

Organizers said a range of activities are planned surrounding the screenings, including a commemoration of the Juneteenth holiday, which will fall on closing night for the first time. Tribeca will be happening nearly two months later than it usually does, having pushed back its dates earlier this year from the usual kickoff in mid-to-late-April.

In addition to Rosenthal and De Niro, the other guiding force for Tribeca now is James Murdoch. Lupa Systems, an investment firm run by the former 21st Century Fox CEO, bought a majority stake in festival parent Tribeca Enterprises in 2019.

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