Berlin Film Festival cuts sections due to budget cuts

Berlin Film Festival cuts sections due to budget cuts

The Berlinale, the world’s largest public film festival, unveiled on Tuesday that it is facing major budget cuts and plans to scrap entire sections from its schedule to avoid a financial crisis.

Starting next year, the Berlin Film Festival will abandon its side section Perspektive Deutsches Kino, which highlights up-and-coming German filmmakers, as a separate section. In future, films by German newcomers will be presented in the existing sections of the festival: Competition, Encounters, Panorama, Generation and Forum.

Berlin is also trimming its Berlinale Series section of high-end TV series, folding series premieres into its Berlinale Special Gala section. Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian will take over the programming of this selection from Julia Fidel, who previously directed the Berlinale Series but announced her departure earlier this year.

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The section of Berlin’s television industry, the Berlinale Series Market, which consists of industry screenings and a lecture programme, will continue unchanged.

The Berlinale will further reduce its overall schedule, with the total number of films reduced to around 200 (compared to 287 films screened across all sections this year). Each section, with the exception of the main competition, will feature fewer films.

“Like many other areas of society, cultural institutions and festivals are experiencing dramatic cost increases but unchanged budgets. With this in mind, we need to introduce structural adjustments to create a stable budgetary basis for the organization and implementation of the Berlinale in the future,” the festival said in a statement. “This process brings with it the opportunity to optimize presentation and the perception of invited films using a more targeted schedule”.

The cuts have been accelerated by the tightening of the belt at the German Ministry of Culture, which co-finances the Berlinale. The ministry finances the Berlinale to the tune of $11.8 million (€10.7 million) annually. It added another $2.4 million (€2.2 million) in 2022 and 2023 to help cover rising costs, but the funding runs out this year.

The Berlinale also saw the exodus of some of its corporate sponsors, who together contributed a third of the event’s budget. Luxury-car brand Audi, a longtime stalwart of the Berlinale, folded after 2020, replaced this year by lower-market hauler Uber. Telco MagentaTV and L’Oréal Paris have also concluded their sponsorship deals. Armani Beauty joined as a fashion sponsor this year.

Berlin’s third financial pillar, ticket sales, seems safer. Berlin sold 320,000 screening tickets at this year’s festival, securing its position as the world’s leading public film event.

But that’s the only thing that seems stable at the Berlinale. Under the direction of co-directors Carlo Chatrian and Mariëtte Rissenbeek, who took over from longtime festival boss Dieter Kosslick and directed the last four Berlinales, Berlin has become more culturally avant-garde and overtly political in its official selection. But festival-goers have complained about a lack of star power or blockbuster titles. Once seen as nearly on par with Cannes and Venice, Berlin has dropped in global rankings as it has struggled to attract the Hollywood blockbusters or the cross-over independent films that define the status of a top-tier festival. Under the reign of Chatrain-Rissenbeek, there was only one major studio world premiere: that of Pixar After youwhich closed the festival in 2020.

Rissenbeek has already said he will step down after next year’s Berlinale when his contract expires. Germany’s culture ministry is still in talks with Chatrian about a possible extension of his contract beyond 2024. But there have been speculations that next year could see a big shakeup, with the ministry overhauling the festival’s management structure and the its funding.

The global film industry will follow closely. The European Film Market in Berlin, which runs parallel to the festival, is the first major film market of the year and, for most large independent buyers and sellers, a must-see. But festival disruptions and the loss of popular sections like the Berlinale Series sidebar could impact industry attendance.

The 74th Berlin International Film Festival will take place from 15 to 25 February 2024.