66,234 spectators watched 151 films from 50 countries at San Sebastian Festival's 68th edition, attended by 2,626 accredited professionals, including 689 journalists from 376 media outlets and 1,185 film industry professionals (487 of whom participated online).
In last year's rundown we opened with references to record audience attendance (178,687 spectators in 2019) and accreditation numbers (4,319 in 2019). But even then we warned that it was difficult to grow further and that San Sebastian Festival had been approaching its growth ceiling for years. We could never have imagined then that the percentages would drop between 30% and 70% at the 68th edition, and even less so that we would consider these figures to be positive.
But, indeed, in 2020 the Festival's focus was elsewhere. Like so many other local cultural businesses and institutions, this was an edition marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and our aims were concentrated into three areas: guaranteeing that it was a safe edition for all participants, protecting the essence of the Festival concept, in other words, highlighting that the best place to screen a film is in a cinema and, lastly, making this an economically viable edition.
In addition to having registered no infections and having attracted the interest of more than 1,000 film industry professionals, as well as almost 700 journalists from 376 media outlets, the Festival introduced a number of structural changes from which it has emerged with flying colours, having also increased its online presence. In view of the results and the positive reception enjoyed by said measures, we are now considering whether to keep some of them in place, such as pre-assigned seating or combined online and physical activities for the film industry, once the pandemic is finally over. There is an overall perception that having held the Festival was enormously important for the Spanish film industry in general, the Basque industry in particular, and the international industry as a whole. Media outlets all over the world have praised our programme and organisation.
The pandemic, which continues to cast uncertainty over film festivals in 2021, is not the only challenge taken up by the Festival. Added to this are the conviction of its commitment to new talents, which is producing results earlier than expected in the coming together between participants at the Co-Production Forum, Nest, New Directors and the Official Selection, the Ikusmira Berriak residents and students at the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola; creation of the Thought and Discussion area, commitment to the gender identity report, which is now joined by a sustainability project; and, tied in with all of these initiatives, reaffirmation of its configuration as a Festival running all year round, which will be intensified thanks to its presence in and with the Tabakalera community throughout 2021.
Lastly, the Festival would like to thank the institutions, sponsors, film industry, media outlets and citizens for their support in one of its most complicated years.