A hard-drinking advertising executive is given a second chance by his long-suffering girlfriend, on condition that he stays away from alcohol for a year.
This paper theorises film festivals as distribution circuits, positioning film festivals in the broader cinema ecology to assess their role in delivering local films to local audiences. Recasting current research trends into film festivals through the lens of distribution enables us to see how festivals function as more than another exhibition screen - as a type of distributor. I offer a case study of Sydney Film Festival to explore the following research questions: What is the distributive function and nature of film festivals for Australian films? What happens to local titles following their festival runs? How can we explain the gap between Australian films' continued popularity at film festivals and their continued under-performance in the rest of the marketplace? In answering these questions, this article demonstrates how film festivals have become crucial to both the Australian film industry and the cinema industry at large over the last 10 years, to the point that they have almost replaced the art-house circuit and come to provide an essential, highly specialised distribution channel for small to medium budget films. For this reason, I argue that material and economic drivers are as essential to the current boon in film festivals as cultural ones, and that the film festival circuit has not been able to address the problem of distribution for auteurist, independent and art cinema in an age of digitisation. I present evidence that localises, concretises and specifies festival research, suggesting the major festivals in Australia are an increasingly discrete and self-contained distribution sector within the wider cinema ecology, which has significant implications for theorisations of festivals as feeders for theatrical circuits.