With the first (official) film festival having been held in Venice in 1932, Europe can be seen as the initiator of a worldwide film festival network that is continuously growing and already includes an estimated 10,000 events. An important part of this network is the booming German festival market with its annual newcomers, its continuing audience successes and its steadily growing importance in a wide variety of contexts. Film festivals have long since taken on the task of opening up otherwise denied access to the public for a large part of the annual output of film productions. As a global phenomenon, film festivals function accordingly as an independent and serious exploitation market. As such, they increasingly assume the position of a central player in the media industry and are continuously transforming themselves into classic media companies. In addition to the various functions that they perform for the film industry, film festivals are increasingly being chosen by policymakers as a strategic instrument to revitalize local cultural offerings and to improve awareness and attractiveness of an economic or tourist region. In this way, film festivals make a targeted contribution to the promotion of their locations. At the same time, they are increasingly becoming a focus of interest in the intermediary sector, for example in (cultural) education or in responding to pressing issues such as the climate crisis, demographic change, globalization and digitization.
Due to their growing importance, film festivals – for many years, mainly a phenomenon in the press, the film industry and the public consciousness – are now increasingly attracting the attention of scholars. Accordingly, the diversity of the profiles and objectives of film festivals is being matched by the multitude of research directions that has been dealing with this emerging academic subject for a number of years.
The analyses initiated by the Initiative Filmfestival Studien are located in the field of media economics and thereby understand film festivals as actors in the film industry and as an alternative form of exploitation alongside cinema exploitation, even if politics, economics, sociology, technology, ecology and law are always taken into account in accordance with the PESTEL approach.