BFI London Film Festival records highest in-person attendance in five years

BFI London Film Festival (LFF) recorded its highest in-person attendance in five years at its 2023 edition, with 195,665 attendees this year.

That figure, which includes the Screen Talks programme that featured Martin Scorsese and Greta Gerwig, tops each of the previous four editions of the festival, including the 190,000 figure from the pre-pandemic 2019 edition. The last edition to record more attendees was in 2018, with 205,630.

The festival’s occupancy levels were at an impressive 90% across its London paid-for and free in-person screenings – up from 87% last year and 84% and 83% in 2018 and 2019 respectively. 54% of ticket bookers this year were new to LFF, indicating a new generation of film audiences discovering the festival.

A further 225,577 attendees participated in the 2023 festival online. Delegate numbers were also up by 12%, from 3,254 last year to 3,649 this time, for the industry programme hosted at London’s Picturehouse Central cinema.

The festival has also unveiled its audience awards for the 2023 edition. George Amponsah’s London-set crime thriller Gassed Up, produced by the UK’s Sunrise Films and Ascendant Fox, took the audience award for best feature, having had its world premiere at LFF. Chloe Abrahams’ debut The Taste Of Mango, looking at the filmmaker’s family history, won the documentary audience award.

Further audience prizes went to short film Festival Of Slaps, a reflection on African parenting stereotypes, for best British work; and Murals, which juxtaposes the war in Ukraine with the murals of Banksy, for best immersive/XR.

“It was an absolute joy seeing audiences enthusiastically connecting to this year’s programme which was beautifully handcrafted by our talented festival team,” said Kristy Matheson, in her first year as BFI London Film Festival director. “Over 12 days we saw audiences coming together and being rewarded for their curiosity and fandom across the full breadth of what the moving image has to offer. UK artists shone bright across the whole programme, alongside some of international cinema’s greatest legends and exciting new talents; our sincere thanks to them for sharing their supreme creativity with us all.”

More than 800 UK and international filmmakers and immersive creators attended the festival, which features 252 titles from 92 countries across features, shorts, XR works and series. 39% of the works came from female and non-binary filmmakers.

The festival announced its 2023 awards on the closing weekend, with Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist taking the best film award in official competition.