Youtube film festival “we are one”: what replaces the big screen?

A good 20 international film festivals, including Cannes, Venice and the Berlinale, are launching a streaming festival on Youtube at the end of May. Will that help?

Likely to remain deserted this year: the Festival Palace in Cannes Photo: dpa

The Berlinale has been lucky. On the last day of the film festival, March 1, the first coronavirus infection was confirmed in Berlin. Two weeks later, cinemas in Germany had to close for safety reasons. Until further notice.

Other film festivals fared worse. In Cannes, the film festival was initially forced to postpone the start planned for mid-May. In the meantime, the alternative date at the end of June is also no longer possible. The film festival has not yet been officially canceled, but the room for maneuver in the second half of the year has natural limits: The Venice Film Festival starts at the beginning of September. So far, at least, they are sticking to this date there.

Some renowned festivals, such as the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, are making do with online versions in which the films are streamed. This is a stopgap solution that eliminates much of what makes a festival so appealing – films on the big screen, the atmosphere in the cinema, encounters in a non-digital space. Both Cannes and Venice have ruled out online options as an alternative. Both festivals are said to be in negotiations to "share" some dates if necessary.

Nevertheless, part of their program, albeit a small one, will be available to watch on the Internet, on Youtube even, from May 29. More than 20 international film festivals, including the Berlinale, have joined forces to create a ten-day virtual festival that will be freely available on the web.

"We Are One" is the name of the initiative by the video portal YouTube and the media company Tribeca Enterprises, the organizer of the Tribeca Film Festival. This year’s edition, which was supposed to run from mid to late April, also had to be postponed. Some of it will be shown instead as part of "We Are One."

Competition films are not online

Other festivals have announced they will contribute films and content from past editions, as well as current events. Not all of these contributions will be feature films. Cannes, for example, is only showing some of its "master classes" from the previous year, panel discussions with famous directors. Competition films, on the other hand, are not to be expected online.

The corona pandemic has shaken things up in the film industry. Starting with the cinemas, many of which are threatened in their existence, to the distributors and the production companies, which have to cope with the months-long cancellation of theatrical releases and the corresponding loss of revenue. Recently, the Oscar Academy announced that next year, for the first time, it will also consider films that have not been shown in theaters.

Cinema as we know it is under increased threat from the Corona pandemic. How much of the film industry will remain in the medium future is currently impossible to predict.

More and more streaming services

But it already seems clear that the remuneration that can be achieved with streaming alone is not profitable for many productions. At some point, this could cause difficulties for the streaming services themselves in purchasing new productions or increase the pressure to offer even more in-house productions – while at the same time the number of competitors is rising. Disney has shown the way with its own platform Disney+, which was recently launched in Germany.

How much movie lovers will be willing to satisfy their needs at the price of an increasing number of streaming subscriptions remains to be seen. How smaller distributors will fare in this purely digital business also remains to be seen. One thing is certain: film festivals and cinemas cannot replace these new forms. At most, they can replace them.