The commercial operation of art films in film festivals


Last year, the only Chinese-language feature film to be selected for the 70th Cannes International Film Festival, Walking Past the Future, will be screened in China by the Arts Federation. In recent years, many art films have attracted people’s attention by participating in the exhibition and competition of the film festival, and have also entered the distribution channels of commercial cinema lines.

In many people’s minds, art films are a type of movie that is opposed to commercial films. On the whole, the audience of art films is not as wide as that of commercial films. Even if it is an art film, it will eventually face the pressure of investment, production costs, and commercial recycling. The importance of Film Festival to art film is not only the promotion of art but also it is the incubator of many author-type films which provides a complete set of the operating system for the transformation of film’s artistic value into commercial value.

Most of the world’s film festivals which we concern are business oriented. Outwardly, they tend to be the premieres of high-profile films, with the attendance of a large number of stars, directors and cultural celebrities, dazzling professional reports, film reviews, lace news, exciting competition unit reviews, and consequent award honors all contributing to worldwide eyeballing effects. However, in the opinion of the industry, the festival is still the most important place for business negotiation. The sale, purchase of films, the finalization of national and regional distribution rights, and even the evaluation, investment, co-production and pre-sale agreement of important film projects with commercial and artistic potential can be completed in the market established by the festival.

Complementing the film market is the intensive media exposure at the festival. Film Festival is not only a film festival but also the gathering place of major film cultural media around the world. Film festival brings together all kinds of stars, directors, producers and professionals, providing reporters with an excellent opportunity to focus on interviews and write relevant reports. Moreover, the film sales agents, publishers, and even the main creators will use the opportunity to do their best to create momentum for the film, to strive for adequate media exposure, so as to leave a deep impression on the ordinary audience for the film to pave the way for commercial distribution in the future.

The commercial nature of the festival and the cooperation of the media can enable art films to transform their artistic value into mountain value by receiving favorable comments and awards. The conversion of artistic value to commercial value gives many filmmakers a glimpse of the promise of success. It is the basic mode of interaction and cooperation between the festival and the film industry and the business system. The operation of the film festival system enables art films to find audiences and audiences to see more films.


Kai Yin. The “confluence” of art and commerce: a perspective of the operation of the Western Film Festival system [J].Film Art, 2017 (1): 15-22.

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