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New York Film Festival Attended by Record 70,000 Guests Virtually and at Drive-Ins

NYFF 58 saw a rise of 9.15% in attendance compared to 2019

Over 70,000 people attended the 2020 New York Film Festival, which was among the most attended ever for the festival in its 58th year, Film at Lincoln Center announced Monday.

That record number includes people who rented movies and watched screenings virtually, as well as virtual talks with filmmakers and talent, and those who came to drive-in screenings held across New York City’s five boroughs.

Film at Lincoln Center estimates that even going virtual, NYFF saw an increase of 9.15% on attendance from 2019 and reached audiences in all 50 states over the festival’s 25 days earlier this fall.

Virtual screenings in particular proved to be a big hit, with NYFF recording 40,000 rentals in all, including rentals in Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As for the drive-in screenings, the festival estimates that approximately 8,300 people attended 33 different drive-in screenings that were held in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

The New York Film Festival went under new leadership this year as Eugene Hernandez took over as NYFF director and Dennis Lim took over as NYFF director of programming. It also streamlined the film programs even ahead of the health crisis, and the festival continued for its longest ever 25 days.

All free virtual programming is now available to watch on Film at Lincoln Center’s YouTube channel, including the “Lovers Rock” press conference featuring director Steve McQueen, an introduction from John Waters on “Art Movie Hell” and a discussion on “Smooth Talk” with Laura Dern.  Press Conference, John Waters’s introduction of Art Movie Hell, and a discussion on Smooth Talk with Laura Dern.

“We are thrilled at the enthusiastic response to our reimagined festival. All summer, we worked to determine how to bring this year’s exceptional new films to audiences during the ongoing health crisis. Building on pre-pandemic goals, we refined our programming approach and developed ways to share NYFF with a wider audience, and our numbers demonstrate that moviegoers across New York City–and in fact in all 50 states!–embraced this year’s event. We’re so grateful for these successes and excited to continue connecting with new audiences around the country,” Hernandez said in a statement.

“The success of this year’s NYFF is a direct result of the passion and hard work of our extraordinary staff, who worked diligently to find new ways to present the festival in these unprecedented times,” FLC executive director Lesli Klainberg said in a statement. “Thank you to participating filmmakers, studios, members, patrons, sponsors, and our Board for their dedication and contributions, and to cinema lovers in NYC and around the country for their enthusiasm for and support of the art of film.”

NYFF58 assumes an average of 2.5 people per car at drive-in screenings and 1.5 home viewers per virtual film rental.