SUDBURY -- Officials with Sudbury's Cinefest Film Festival say they feel good about how the first ever hybrid-format was received by the public.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the popular Sudbury staple was forced to quickly adapt to a new model, offering showings both in person and online, allowing those hesitant to head to the theatre an opportunity to participate.

"[I am] relieved, absolutely," said Tammy Frick, executive director of Cinefest. "Heading into last week was a little bit challenging in that it's the first time that we presented a hybrid festival, and it truly felt like two separate events for the most part."

This year, a total of 53 feature films and 18 shorts were offered. While she acknowledges there were at times technical difficulties for those logging in to watch from home, Frick said those were quickly resolved by their technical support teams and feedback has been positive.

"A wonderful combination of elated people, which is great, definitely in cinema," Frick reflected. "People were just so pleased to have access to the films on the big screen…and online some great reactions. A lot of people tuning in from outside of Sudbury."

After reviewing some of the early data, Frick said that by offering titles online, the festival was able to expand its reach to audiences that would not typically be able to participate, including the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which held its internationally-renowned Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

"We tracked a lot of audience from Thunder Bay, the Ottawa area, of course the GTA, especially films that they heard about from TIFF and didn't quite have time to log in so they'd stream them with us and discover other titles that we didn't have that were similar," said Frick.

While she admits she is hopeful to be able to have a more traditional festival in 2021, she said that they are considering adapting certain aspects of this year's hybrid format into future years, including continuing to offer pre-recorded conversations with some of the stars that aired ahead of 16 of this year's films.

"We had access to wonderful guest support, so that was awesome, because people didn't necessarily have to travel to Sudbury for us to have access to them. So some of the pre-recorded online interviews, that sort of thing we'd like to incorporate for next year."

Frick said the hybrid format also provides an opportunity to include a number of independent films that the festival often runs out of in-house screens to include, something the festival is also considering adapting in the years ahead.