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London Film Fest closes to record audience numbers

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124,000 filmgoers attended the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival (LFF) this year, according to a report in Variety. The fest's 2008 attendance numbered at 115,000. This year's lineup featured 515 screenings, including 15 world premieres, with over 550 filmmakers in attendance, including Wes Anderson with fest opener "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Jason Reitman with "Up in the Air," Jane Campion with "Bright Star" and Grant Heslov with "The Men Who Stare at Goats." Performers also added to the fest's luster, with George Clooney, Bill Murray, Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen lending star power. 

The question that bears asking is: With media outlets reporting that attendance has dropped at film festivals in 2009 ranging from Cannes to the Romania International Film Festival and everything in between, how did the LFF manage such an increase in attendees?

According to a spokeperson for the festival, "The increase in attendance numbers is likely due to a combination of factors. Firstly, the quality of the program, and particularly the fact that we were able to attract highly anticipated world premiere for our opening and closing night slots, as well as many strong and high profile titles throughout the festival. Combined with this, the additional UK Film Council funding ($3 million over three years, half of which, according to Variety, was spent this year, raising the festival's budget to $9 million) did allow investment in several key areas, including an increase in the marketing and publicity budgets. It also allowed us to implement a whole series of aspirations which have been some time in the planning, including a new stand-alone awards ceremony and the introduction of press conferences. All of these factors helped raise the profile of the festival, which in turn led to increased ticket sales."

So there you have it -- a foolproof way to boost your festival to an internationally competitive level.

Anyone have $3 million lying around?

-- Paul Gaita

Photo: George Clooney (with Elisabetta Canalis) at the London Film Festival premiere of "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Credit: Getty Images

More film festival news:

David Ansen named artistic director of the Los Angeles Film Festival

AFI Fest 2009 announces New Lights Competition winners

Sundance Film Festival goes nationwide with eight-city Sundance Film Festival U.S.A.

Winners announced for 53rd London Film Festival

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