The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival will have in-person screenings, something no North American fest has done since the start of Covid-19.
A 12-day series of outdoor screenings will highlight the event, which will be the 20th anniversary of the first Tribeca held months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The festival will be the official cap-off to New York State’s ongoing NY PopsUp arts initiative. Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal is also one of the principals behind NYPopsUp.
Screenings will be held June 9 to 20 at a range of public venues across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Confirmed venues include Brookfield Place New York, Pier 57 Rooftop, The Battery, Hudson Yards; Empire Outlets and The MetroTech Commons. In addition to those venues, Tribeca will host community screenings in all New York City boroughs, including the Bronx and Queens, using traveling 40-foot screens. Tribeca officials said they are working closely with the New York State Department of Health to ensure that public gatherings comply with Covid-19 safety protocols.
The pandemic in 2020 wiped out several festivals, including Cannes, SXSW and Telluride. Other major stops on the circuit, including Venice, Toronto and Sundance staged altered events, with limited screenings and an emphasis on virtual activities. Only Venice was able to approach normalcy, with press screenings and celebrity appearances but Covid consciousness prevailed.
Talent, of course, is the biggest variable in how events can resume. Tribeca is helped by the number of notables from both sides of the camera living in New York. Domestic travel is also ramping up, and New York City officials have estimated that more than half of the city’s 8.7 million residents will be vaccinated by June.
Given New York State’s go-ahead for city movie theaters to reopen with capacity limits, it could be possible for Tribeca to add indoor screenings and events, but nothing on that front has been confirmed. Prospects for a return to familiarity for the fall New York Film Festival are due to get a boost in April when Film at Lincoln Center reopens its screening-room doors. Cannes organizers insist their event will happen in July, but continental Europe has seen a surge of coronavirus cases, additional lockdowns and serious difficulties with vaccine rollouts.
Tribeca’s announcement is aimed at returning the festival to its original role: stimulating the city’s economy through its culture. The arts sector has suffered badly over the past year, with Broadway shuttered for more than a year, as well as the spectrum of music, dance, theater and other venues that define New York.
“After the 9/11 attacks, the Tribeca Film Festival helped set the stage for New York City’s incredible comeback – and helped spur a new golden age for film and TV production across the five boroughs,” former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in the festival’s press release. “This year the festival is once again shining a spotlight on our city’s resilience and creativity, and just as we’ve done from the start, Bloomberg is glad to support this great tradition, which will once again help lift our city’s spirit.”
“It’s only natural that The Tribeca Film Festival will be among those leading the return of arts and culture, as it has consistently enriched the lives of New Yorkers since its inception, by celebrating and showcasing our city,” said Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York. “This year’s festival at The Battery is just the beginning, as Lower Manhattan continues to develop as a new center of gravity for the arts.”
Organizers said a range of activities are planned surrounding the screenings, including a commemoration of the Juneteenth holiday, which will fall on closing night for the first time. Tribeca will be happening later than it usually does, having pushed back its dates earlier this year from the usual late-April start.
In addition to Rosenthal and her co-founder and production partner, Robert De Niro, the other guiding force for Tribeca now is James Murdoch. Lupa Systems, an investment firm run by the former 21st Century Fox CEO, bought a majority stake in festival parent Tribeca Enterprises in 2019.
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