Fantastic Fest Reformats, Resets in Pandemic Response
South Lamar reunion will become dispersed fest instead
By Richard Whittaker,
12:05AM, Fri. Sep. 3, 2021
Another domino on the fall festival circuit has, if not fallen, at least is angled in a different direction. Fantastic Fest has announced that, while it will still proceed in 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic it's going to look radically different (with a lot of details still to be announced) to the planned in-person return to the Alamo South Lamar.
In a late-night statement, the Alamo Drafthouse's genre festival said it will be changing its in-person festival (Sept. 23-30) from badges to individually ticketed events. Moreover, while the South Lamar location will still be the heart of the fest, there will be events at multiple locations around Austin, still to be confirmed. The fest is offering refunds to badge holders who no longer wish to attend, or the option to roll over to next year's festival.
The change comes as Gov. Greg Abbott has made it increasingly clear that he will punish any business that requires proof of vaccination, and that's exactly what the festival was planning. Austin is still also in Stage 5 of its Covid response due to high infection rates and limited hospital beds, making large in-person events tougher than ever to organize.
There's no information yet about how, if at all, this will affect the announced programming, which includes an opening night screening of the Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Titane, or where the non-South Lamar screenings will happen.
This will be the third time in its 17-year history that the fest has had to shift from its week-long day-and-night programming and mayhem at South Lamar. In 2013, when the flagship location was being renovated, the festival moved to the Lakeline location. Then in 2020 it went online, with the stripped-down Celebration of Fantastic Fest.
This shift only affects the in-person fest, not the virtual FF@HOME which is still scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 11. The festival confirmed that 30 of this year's selections will be available online, as well as a curated slate of classics and favorites from earlier festivals.
Here's the full announcement:
Since day one back in 2005, Fantastic Fest has been like no other film festival in the world. It’s been a gathering spot where fans of genre film could converge, converse, and contribute their point of view. It’s been a place where filmmakers and talent could hang out, let their guard down, and be a part of something (chaos) magical. We’re proud to have generated a fiercely loyal community of friends and fiends that seek something special and profoundly unique… something fantastic.
Due to the current public health situation, however, as well as the unique, special nature of the festival that sees a large group of the same people in a single venue over the course of 8 days, we are making changes in the festival to make it more COVID-safe.
It’s September 2nd, and we know that a great many people have travel plans locked in for three weeks from now, and that many brilliant filmmakers very much want to show their work to the Fantastic Fest audience.
So here’s the announcement – Fantastic Fest 2021 is HAPPENING… but it’s going to be different this year.
We’re making structural and fundamental changes to this year’s event so that it can be as safe as possible. They’re big changes, and many are works-in-progress, but we want to make sure our attendees and partners understand the scope of what we’re planning.
• The dates for the 2021 festival remain the same, September 23rd-30th.
• We plan to host festival screenings this year across multiple venues in Austin – most will be at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, but we expect to also utilize Alamo Drafthouse’s other Austin locations as well.
• Each screening will be ticketed individually, with reserved seating – thus allowing for contact tracing. We will also have at least one buffer seat placed between groups.
• There will be no indoor parties or mixers.
• Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar will also host our signature events Fantastic Feud and 100 Best Kills. Details on the complete schedule will be posted to the Fantastic Fest website prior to the event.
As noted above, this year’s event will not use badges. Furthermore, we know that this model is not the festival that anyone signed up for, so we’re offering refunds for any badgeholders who need them. However, we encourage badgeholders to roll them over to 2022, because we are committed to returning in 2022 with the classic Fantastic Fest that our community expects and deserves.
Finally, we have modified our Fantastic Fest public health policy as far as we can within the confines of Texas law. As before, proof of vaccination is required for attendance, but by state order we will now also accept a negative COVID test from a state-approved test provider taken within 24 hours of each day’s screenings. However, we strongly prefer proof of vaccination.
The virtual portion of Fantastic Fest, FF@HOME, will still take place 9/30-10/11 on Alamo On Demand. ALTER is the lead sponsor of FF@HOME. Rev.com will be sponsoring our new accessibility initiative.
“The first step to creating access was offering a virtual option with an affordable badge price,” says Ahbra Perry, Head of Alamo On Demand. “We are grateful to ALTER for generously underwriting FF@HOME, including a soon-to-be-legendary virtual party. And with help from our friends at Rev.com. we’re going to be able to provide Closed Captions for the films and shorts playing virtually that can’t provide their own. That is a big step in the right direction and hopefully just the beginning.”
Over 30 films from the current festival lineup will be available virtually, including brand new shorts blocks. FF @ Home Badge holders will have access to films for 48-hour windows. We are also excited to include a special curation of Fantastic Fest films from years past, many of them hard to find, that will be available for the full duration of the virtual festival.
There’s a great deal more to say, and the Fantastic Fest team is hard at work. In addition to the complete schedule, we will communicate details on rollovers, refunds, and the new ticketing process very soon. We will also be announcing the 2nd wave of films and the short film selections by the end of next week. We are excited to host our community and friends in this modified, COVID-safe, but still quite Fantastic Fest.