Research Outline

Film Festival Growth


To identify film festivals that have grown rapidly over the past five years and to understand how that growth was achieved for the purposes of developing a digital strategy for the Sundance Film Festival.

Early Findings

Preliminary research found five film festivals that have experienced growth over the past five years.

BFI London Film Festival

  • Between 2014 and 2019, the BFI London Film Festival has grown from 163,300 in attendance to 178,789 in attendance, a growth of 9.5% over the five years.
  • The attendance for this festival, however, has fluctuated, dipping to 157,000 in 2015 and rising to a high of 184,700 in 2016.

Cleveland International Film Festival

  • Between 2014 and 2019, the Cleveland International Film Festival has grown from 97,804 in attendance to 105,839 in attendance, a growth of 8.2% over the five years.
  • However, attendance has remained relatively flat for the last three years, having seen 106,504 attendees in 2017, 105,656 in 2018, and 105,839 in 2019.

Milwaukee Film Festival

  • The Milwaukee Film Festival grew 9% between 2016 and 2017, growing from 76,899 in attendance to 84,072 in attendance.
  • However, there was a decrease of about 6% between 2017 and 2018, falling from 84,072 to 78,510 in attendance.
  • In 2011, though, the festival had just 36,000 attendance, so over the following seven years, this festival has experienced significant growth.

True/False Film Festival

  • The True/False Film Festival, held in Columbia, Missouri, has grown from 37,548 tickets sold in 2012 to 52,400 in 2017, an increase of 40% over five years.
  • The attendance in 2017 for the True/False Film Festival was 15,000, suggesting that each attendee goes to about 3.5 films during the festival.

Bentonville Film Festival

  • The Bentonville Film Festival has grown from 37,000 attendees in its first year in 2015 to 85,000 in 2018, an increase of 130% over three years.
  • This festival has grown steadily from 37,000 attendees in 2015, 63,000 in 2016, 75,000 in 2017, and 85,000 in 2018. The numbers for 2019 have not been published, but are expected to exceed 100,000.