Cinema St. Louis Moves to Virtual Festivals in 2020

Because of the ongoing world health crisis, Cinema St. Louis (CSL) will move all of the organization’s 2020 film festivals and events online. This includes CSL’s signature event in November, the 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, CSL originally moved its spring events to summer with the hope that the virus would have abated and in-person theatrical screenings could resume in some form. Even though the U.S. has begun to loosen restrictions on some activities, it has become clear to CSL that holding traditional film festivals would be impossible. To protect the health and safety of our patrons and volunteers, and to ensure that the organization can deliver the highest-quality festival experience possible, CSL has decided that a virtual approach to our events is the prudent and most responsible course of action.

CSL will be partnering with Eventive to present its festivals online. In a few instances, films will only be available at a specific time and date, but patrons will be able to stream the majority of films, shorts programs, and special events at any time during the run of a festival, similar to the video-on-demand approach of cable services and such platforms as Amazon Prime, YouTube, or Vudu. Once a program is started, viewers will have 24 hours to watch the stream. Programs can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded. Films will be accessible on most computers and tablets, and on televisions via services such as Roku or Chromecast. Full information will be available on the CSL website as festivals are announced. 

Patrons will be able to purchase individual films — $10 general, $8 for CSL members, students, and ARTS Card holders — but passes will also be available for the various festivals. CSL remains committed to making its events as accessible as possible, so select programs will continue to be offered for free.

To retain as much of the festival experience as possible, many of the films will feature accompanying conversations with filmmakers, documentary subjects, critics, academics, or experts on the subjects addressed in a film. Most conversations will be recorded, but live Q&As, master classes, and seminars will also occur. In addition, recordings of all such conversations and events will be available for free on the CSL website.

The following CSL festivals will be offered online:

  • QFest St. Louis: CSL’s annual LGBTQ-focused festival will now take place virtually from June 19-28.
  • St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase: The event will take place virtually from July 10-19.
  • Classic French Film Festival: Because films in this event are older works, many of the originally scheduled programs were unavailable for online presentation, but a smaller-scale virtual fest will include three of the selected films — “India Song,” “Olivia,” and “Rider on the Rain” — from July 17-23. Experts will still offer recorded intros, and CSL will record Q&As with the presenters that will play after the films.
  • St. Louis International Film Festival: CSL’s premier event will take place virtually in November, with specific dates to be announced. Originally scheduled to take place Nov. 5-15, SLIFF will likely increase the length of its run by several days.

Three CSL co-presentations are still in flux, and announcements will be made when CSL’s partners make decisions on how to proceed:

  • St. Louis Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival: CSL is a co-presenter of this event with the Saint Louis Science Center. The fest was originally scheduled for May 1. The Science Center hopes to reschedule the event for later in the summer, but a virtual presentation remains an option.
  • SLIFF Best of Shorts: CSL is co-presenter of this event — a selection of the best shorts from the 2019 SLIFF at the Public Media Commons — with St. Louis Public Radio. The event was originally scheduled for June. St. Louis Public Radio hopes to reschedule the event for later in the summer, but a virtual presentation remains an option.
  • Filmmaking Camps: CSL partners with local libraries and schools to present free filmmaking camps. Because these events are not able to be presented virtually, many of the camps have already been cancelled, including all St. Louis Public Library camps. The Community School and the University City Library have cancelled camps through June, but the possibility of camps later in the summer remains open at present.

Finally, here are updates on two other CSL events in 2020:

  • I Love Movies Trivia Night: This fundraiser, originally scheduled for June 5, will now be held online in a new format. Details will be announced soon
  • Golden Anniversaries: Films of 1970: The six-film fest is currently slated for Aug. 22-23, Aug. 29-30, and Sept. 5-6 at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library. If the library is not able to hold public events during these dates, the screenings will be cancelled, but CSL will hold Zoom conversations on the scheduled films in a format similar to CSL’s Movie Club, with people watching the films on their own but gathering virtually to discuss them.