Who's Last? Challenges and Advantages for Late Adopters in the International Film Festival Field

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Film festivals are claimed to be leading events establishing the reputation of directors and producers in the film industry and they constitute a well-established field in itself. Film festivals have become a widespread phenomenon over the last fifty years with specialization as an emerging feature, profiling festivals on the basis of the participating genre and quality of movies, directors and actors. Such a structured field constitutes an interesting domain to analyze challenges and advantages of late adopters in an institutionalized field. This paper is concerned with the strategic responses and efforts made by two late adopters film festivals – Copenhagen international film festival (CIFF), launched in 2003, and Festa del Cinema di Roma (FCR) launched in 2006 – in order to establish themselves as international film festivals within the international film festival field. The comparative study of two film festivals is based on qualitative data and thrives on business ethnographical methods. The paper investigates how the two festivals have positioned themselves and how they face the inclusion-exclusion dilemma (Brewer, 1991; Alvarez et al., 2005) establishing themselves within the institutionalised field of international film festivals. Combining the classical work by Tolbert and Zucker (1983) on early and late adopters in the diffusion of management ideas and practices with Suchman’s (1995) forms of legitimacy and Lawrence and Suddaby’s (2006) notion of institutional work, we analyze how imitation and innovation pressures have shaped the frames used to position and legitimate the film festivals and their relation with the industry.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
Publisherimagine.. CBS
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Film festivals
  • Field configuring events
  • Legitimacy
  • Institutional work

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