In the blink of an eye another year of Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival has almost flown by. That is, everywhere across the motu except for the hardy Whakatū Nelson leg of the festival, which is still going (!) — trip to Nelson for the films we missed, anyone?
While Whakatū keeps the fire burning for one more week, I’d love for us all to turn our attention to something I would never have thought I’d be calling exciting, but, here we are.
As much as I have always loved writing, reading, language, and generally everything except maths and numbers, something weird happened when I hit my late twenties and started working in marketing. I started genuinely getting a kick out of data. Like the refreshing-Google-Analytics-and-studying-line-graphs type of data. So, as the festival was coming to a close, I thought, let’s take a look at why data is actually VERY cool and fun by highlighting some interesting numbers from this year’s festival.
We’ll start with Te Whanganui-a-Tara because a) it’s where I live and b) our Te Whanganui-a-Tara audiences love to show up in hordes every year to fight their way into sessions, so I bet there’s some great data hiding there.
This year, an incredible 7,858 tickets were sold in Wellington alone on the opening day of ticket sales. I have no idea how our website didn’t crash and our box office staff were still standing by the end of the day, so honestly, well done to the team. And well done to Te Whanganui-a-Tara audiences for being so keen, we love you.
On top of those ticket sales, we already had a massive 1,120 tickets booked before Wellington ‘on-sale’ through early 10-trip passes, who all got priority seating. Lucky them! (And maybe a clue for how to get the best seats next year...)
The total number of tickets sold in Te Whanganui-a-Tara ended up being 46,356. That is an unfathomable number of people hurrying between busy cinemas for two and a half weeks in the dead of winter. While some of us are trying to hide from sideways rain and small hurricanes, many courageous souls are out there braving the elements for the love of cinema. What a sight to behold.
While we’re still on Wellington, this year’s festival had a 3D screening, Anselm 3D, which meant that 284 3D glasses were used at this year’s festival. NZIFF sold 294 tickets to Anselm in Wellington, which means ten people either brought their own 3D glasses from home, or went without — both impressive feats. I have no idea how 3D cinema actually works, but I do know that this film looked really incredible and I’m sad I missed it this year.
Speaking of films, the top five films people used their multi-passes on this year were: Anatomy of a Fall, Fallen Leaves, Past Lives, Perfect Days and Asteroid City. The top five sessions with the highest number of tickets sold in Wellington were for Past Lives, two sessions of Anatomy of a Fall, Fallen Leaves and brilliantly, the new kiwi doco Ms. Information. These were all at the grand Embassy theatre, which seats more than 700 people (!).
Moving on to other regions across the country, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland took out the top spot for ticket sales, with 55,157 tickets purchased. While this does not necessarily equal the number of people attending, if this were a one-ticket-per-person scenario this would be equivalent to the entire population of Rotorua.
Ticket sales are currently more than 15,000 across Whangārei, Matakana (encore screenings coming from 5-10 September), Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Tauranga Moana, Turanganui-a-Kiwa Gisborne, Ahuriri Napier, Te Hemo-a-Te Atonga Havelock North, Ngāmotu New Plymouth, Te Papaoeia Palmerston North, Whakaoriori Masterton, Whakatū Nelson (still going), with Kirikiriroa leading the charge, but Nelson may well take the regional top spot. This year, we welcomed two new regions (Whangārei and Tūranganui-a-Kiwa Gisborne) and four new venues to the fold.
Outside of these general ticket sales, we also had 3,319 school students who participated in the NZIFF For Schools programme across the motu. Steering excited children away from the candy bar and getting them to sit in their seats for a whole session must have been an achievement in and of itself, not to mention shepherding hundreds of children around a cinema. Well done to Square Eyes Film Foundation and the NZIFF team for this impressive undertaking!
Another programme that deserves a shout-out is the NZIFF Access programme, which was launched this year with 16 new Access sessions. These included low-sensory screenings, open captions screenings and audio-described screenings. I know the team has big plans to keep growing this seed so that Whānau Mārama can become more accessible, ka pai tō mahi.
Moving on to film stats, here is what I think is undoubtedly the coolest stat from this year: The film festival across the country this year played for 3,752 hours. That equals 156 DAYS of non-stop film screenings. Imagine being able to clone yourself so you don’t lose your job and then your clone spends a third of a year watching films back-to-back, without sleeping, (talking?) or eating, and you’re getting close to the full festival run time. This doesn’t sound like the most fun or healthy experience but maybe someone could do it as an extended durational performance art piece?? I mean, robots are coming. Watch this space.
The festival also screened 156 different films this year, from a range of 47 different countries and hosted TEN world premieres of Aotearoa films.
NZIFF staff, venues and filmmakers collaborated to run 89 different Q&A sessions across the country during the festival. A huge 44 Moderators hosted these Q&As, from NZIFF staff to filmmakers, podcast hosts, actors, journalists... the list goes on. We also hosted 45 filmmakers, some from overseas, who presented their films, attended Q&As and were shepherded between venues and cities across the motu, helping to enrich audiences’ experiences of the film festival and break down barriers between audiences and filmmakers.
With a core team of just 27 staff, this would be impossible to pull off. NZIFF is supported by more than 200 film-loving volunteers and numerous programming, box office, venue management and logistical staff, who all come together to make this beautiful Whānau Mārama happen every year. Eight very important people also sit on the board of the New Zealand Film Festival Trust, and this year we welcomed Toby Manhire, Kaine Thompson and Sharon Menzies to the board.
Now that your head is swimming with all of these numbers, and maybe even some performance art ideas, I’ll leave you to ponder that old saying about it taking a village to raise... a festival.