Tribeca Festival Draws Solid Crowds In Person And Online For Covid Comeback Edition

Attendees watch a screening at the 2021 Tribeca Festival. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

EXCLUSIVE: The just-concluded Tribeca Festival, which offered signs of the industry and culture bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, drew solid crowds both in person and online, according to new data from organizers.

About 100,000 people attended the 250-plus events held over 12 days, everything from screenings to performances to talks. Tribeca, whose 2020 edition was wiped out by Covid-19, became the first major North American fest to host in-person events. It opened and closed, respectively, with In the Heights and Dave Chappelle‘s untitled documentary. Like the majority of films at this year’s fest, they were both world premieres.

With limits on in-person ticket sales, the decision was made to mount an ambitious online offering, Tribeca At Home. The online hub for a wide range of features, shorts, conversations, filmmaker Q&As and other material racked up 115,000 overall views, the festival said. The streaming app was distributed on Roku and other platforms, helping expand its reach, and its run ended just after the festival itself did. Films premiering on big screens were made available as ticketed events the next day on Tribeca at Home.

There’s no direct comparison from past Tribeca festivals in terms of the number of online viewers, but previous efforts to re-route films online met with stiff resistance from filmmakers and their reps. In 2021, with release windows in major flux and the opening night draw, In the Heights, streaming on HBO Max just hours after the Tribeca premiere, there was more willingness to back limited streaming runs.

Apart from opening and closing night, the festival unfolded outdoors, in all five New York City boroughs, with social distancing and pod systems in effect. Traveling, 40-foot screens were set up in a number of locations. Opening night at the United Palace in Washington Heights brought 500 attendees to a venue capable of seating 3,300, while closing night saw a packed house of 5,400 at Radio City Music Hall.

In 2019, Tribeca said 146,000 people attended that year’s 618 screenings and talks.

During the middle of the fest’s run, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave Tribeca a shoutout as he announced the lifting of most Covid restrictions as the state passed the 70% vaccination mark.

Earlier today, Tribeca also announced its audience award winners. Catch the Fair One, a thriller executive produced by Darren Aronovsky, won for Best Narrative Feature. Blind Ambition, an emotion-rich story of four refugees from Zimbabwe who team up to represent their home country in a world wine-tasting competition, won for Best Documentary Feature. The filmmakers each take home $10,000 in cash. Catch the Fair One was directed and written by Josef Kubota Wladyka and Blind Ambition was directed by Robert Coe and Warwick Ross.

The audience award for Best Online Premiere went to Ferguson Rises. Directed by Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, the film explores the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, which occurred years before the death of George Floyd.

Tribeca released a “wrap film” to sum up this year’s singular, anniversary edition. (Watch it below.) It is directed by Lance Oppenheim, with contributions by filmmakers including Jessica Kingdon, Phillip Youmans and Sabrina Santiago. Footage captured by Oppenheim’s crew and sent to him via iPhones during the festival’s first 10 days incorporates a significant number of notable figures into its 1 minute 54 second running time.

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