New Zealand International Film Festival Delays 2021 Opening To Align with Cannes

New Zealand International Film Festival Delays 2021 Opening To Align with Cannes
The 2021 film festival will see a return to The Civic with its iconic flamingo curtain. Pictured here is opening night from 2019. Credit: Veronica McLaughlin

Here’s the news you’ve been waiting for – Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival is happening in 2021 and dates are now confirmed with the festival taking place from late October this year.

The film festival normally opens in July/August, but in light of the severe impact Covid-19 has had on live events, the New Zealand Film Festival Trust and management have been carefully considering the national film festival’s shape and timing for 2021.

The 2021 festival will return to a fully cinema-based event to take place in 30 cinemas in 13 towns and cities nationwide including the festival’s four flagship venues – The Civic in Auckland, The Embassy in Wellington, Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, and Dunedin’s Regent Theatre. In Auckland, the film festival also returns to SkyCity Theatre.

The film festival will open in Auckland on Thursday 28 October, followed by Christchurch on the following day, with Dunedin and Wellington to follow a week later. The remaining nine centres span November and the first week of December.

Critical Factors
Two critical factors are behind the decision to move to dates later in the year: the timing of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and supply of high-profile international films.

Festival director Marten Rabarts says that presenting the 2021 festival from October to early December would ensure audience confidence.

“The Government's rollout projections indicate that vaccinating all border and MIQ workers will soon be complete, and this critical step will effectively ringfence our ports and borders. By late October/early November, the Ministry of Health confirms vaccination against COVID 19  will have been made available to around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s adult population.

“This wide roll out ensures audiences can feel safe coming back into cinemas and also reduces the likelihood of the crippling lockdowns we've experienced in the past months.”

Additionally, the move also considers the recently announced postponement of the Cannes Film Festival from May to July. “As a vital source of many high-profile festival titles, the later dates for NZIFF 2021 will allow us to select films from a delayed Cannes in addition to Venice and Toronto festivals which take place in late August/early September.

“By moving our dates, we can confidently expect to present the world-class film festival our audience expects and deserves. We can’t wait to be back in cinemas and venues around the country and satisfy what we know is a growing hunger for the very best of world cinema.”

Creating a Truly National Film Festival
The dates for 2021 will also see a condensing of the film festival across the country. “In the past, the festival has had a very extended run-time, opening in Auckland in July and running right through to October in some centres,” Mr Rabarts said.

“Historically, this arose primarily to accommodate 35mm print traffic of films that often had only one travelling print imported by the festival to service all cities and regions. With digital projection, we can now present the same festival almost simultaneously nationwide to create a truly national film festival.”

NZFFT Chair Catherine Fitzgerald said the 2021 festival will include gala opening nights, Q&As with filmmakers and other live events. “We know our loyal film festival fans will be thrilled to hear this news today, and we’re especially pleased that we will be back in full festival mode for 2021 to mark the festival’s 50th anniversary in Wellington.”  

She added that the decision to move the festival by three months for 2021 follows a string of postponements and delays of events in New Zealand and globally. 

“Sydney Film Festival has also announced a three-month delay, and many film festivals around the world have either been cancelled or forced online. We believe we are taking the best course of action with a viable window of opportunity to present the film festival in spring.”

This move to later dates is a one-off for 2021, and the festival will return to its usual July/August timing in 2022.

Mark your calendars – here are the confirmed 2021 film festival dates and venues

Auckland: 28 October to 14 November  
Academy Cinemas, Event Cinemas Queen Street, Hollywood Avondale, Rialto Cinemas Newmarket, SkyCity Theatre, The Bridgeway Cinema, The Capitol Cinema, The Civic, and The Vic Devonport

Wellington: 4–21 November 
Light House Cuba, Light House Petone, Penthouse Cinema, Reading Cinemas Porirua, Roxy Cinema, and The Embassy Theatre  

Christchurch: 29 October to 14 November
Isaac Theatre Royal and Lumière Cinemas 

Dunedin: 5–21 November
Rialto Cinemas Dunedin and the Regent Theatre 

Hamilton: 11 November to 5 December
Lido Cinemas 

Tauranga: 18 November to 5 December 
Rialto Tauranga 

Hawke’s Bay: 18 November to 5 December 
Event Cinemas Havelock North and MTG Century Theatre 

New Plymouth: 18 November to 5 December 
Event Cinemas New Plymouth and Len Lye Centre Cinema 

Palmerston North: 19 November to 5 December 
Event Cinemas Palmerston North 

Masterton: 19 November to 1 December
Regent 3 Cinemas 

Nelson: 11 November to 2 December
State Cinemas Nelson (Suter Theatre) 

Timaru: 11–21 November 
MovieMax Digital 

Gore: 11–21 November 
SBS St James Theatre 

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