This year's edition of the Locarno International Film Festival (August 2-12, 2006) will jettison two sections and show fewer films, the festival's annual meeting was told in Locarno on Monday evening.

The new artistic director Frederic Maire announced that the Video and Human Rights sidebars would not be continued in the 59th edition, although films shot on video could be shown in the Official Competition and Filmmakers of the Present sections as well as the newly created Play Forward sidebar dedicated to digitally produced avant-garde and experimental work.

In addition, Locarno will host a Day of Swiss Cinema during the festival as proposed earlier this year at the Solothurn Film Days by Nicolas Bideau, the new head of the film section at Switzerland's Federal Office of Culture.

Reviewing the last edition of the festival by Maire's predecessor Irene Bignardi and her assistant Teresa Cavina, festival president Marco Solari reported that they had left the festival with balanced books and noted that the 2006 budget would be less than 2005's given that the number of films and sections would be reduced.

Solari added that the 2005 edition had posted a record attendance of 189,000 spectators which was part of constant development over the past decade with an increase of 46.5% in ticket sales.

In addition, the festival had managed to attract ever larger numbers of Swiss and foreign journalists - 1,183 were accredited in 2005, with 56% from Switzerland and 44% from abroad - and seen the media coverage on the summer event grow by 36% over the previous year.

While preparations are now in full swing for this year's festival, Solari and Maire are already looking to making plans for the 60th anniversary edition in 2007. Solari stressed that this jubilee would be an "important stage" in the festival's history but stressed that Locarno "must definitely remain a festival with an international aura, and do so even with its limited financial means."

Meanwhile, Maire told that he is hopeful of going some way to alleviating the festival's hotel accommodation problem this year thanks to cooperation with the town's Tourism Office. "We will be able to give the professionals who are not officially invited by the festival a special number and code to access a service from the Tourism Office to find accommodation," Maire explained, adding that he was also looking at ways of making apartments standing empty at this time in the resort town available to festival guests.

In 2005, the festival had 153 fewer hotel rooms for its guests after the closure of Hotel Zurigo and Beau Rivage and the conversion of the neighbouring Hotel Muralto into luxury apartments. Since last summer, the Hotel Reber and the Grand Hotel - the traditional meeting place for festival-goers each evening after the open-air programme on the Piazza - closed their doors.