Everyone who works on the film festival circuit understands the hierarchy. Essentially a two tiered system–festivals are either A-list or not.
Those who believe otherwise are deluding themselves.
Sponsors know it. The press knows it. The industry knows it. Filmmakers know it.
Fests not on the top rung, try to distinguish themselves with “Premiere Status.” This type of pissing match devolves from meaningful designations like World Premiere, North American Premiere or U.S. Premiere (the domain of A-list festivals) into territorial designations like boasts of Coastal Premieres (East or West Coast!), or even sillier–regional, state, county, city, and other area designations. (Everyone has seen a film branded with some bizarre premiere status or other–phrases like “Heartland Premiere” or “Tri-state Premiere” or “Mid-Atlantic Premiere.”)
With so many “Premieres,” such designations become meaningless. Further, these claims often go unchecked. (This is not something that just happens to smaller festivals. I was personally involved in a case where a film premiered at The Maryland Film Festival months before its “World Premiere” at the Toronto Film Festival.)
Not to pick on any single festival, because these Premiere errors are often innocent oversights–case in point: this story in Monday’s Indiewire news and notes, reported that Newport hosted the “West Coast Premiere” of NEVERWAS last Thursday. Wouldn’t the fact that NEVERWAS closed another California festival two weeks prior negate its status as a West Coast Premiere?
What strikes me as ironic about festivals clinging to such minor premiere designations is that in the end they only serve to underscore their regionalism.
Short of a World Premiere, North American Premiere or U.S. Premiere, everything else is sloppy seconds.