A popular and contemporary artistic adventure. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, the Avignon Festival is today one of the most important contemporary performing arts events in the world. Every year in July, Avignon becomes a city-theater, transforming its architectural heritage into various performance venues, majestic or surprising, welcoming tens of thousands of theater-lovers (over 130,000 admissions) of all ages. Its legendary space is the "Cour d'honneur" (main courtyard) of the Popes' Palace, the heart of outdoor performances, before nearly 2,000 spectators, on summer nights in Provence. The spectators, often on vacation and far from home, spend several days in Avignon and see a few of the 40 or so shows, mostly plays and dance recitals and occasionally concerts or plastic arts events. The Festival successfully brings together a general public and international creation for an original alliance. Avignon is also a state of mind: the city is an open-air forum where festival-goers discuss the shows and share their experiences as spectators. For a month, everyone can have access to a contemporary and living culture.
There are more than fourty differents show performed during the Festival, but and also readings, exhibitions, films and debates, all of which are gateways into the invited artists' own world. Every evening during the Festival, there is at least one show première, making Avignon a place of true creation and adventure for the artists as well as for the audience.
The Festival's directors are appointed by the board, and have to be formally approved by the Mayor of Avignon and the French Culture Ministry. Since Jean Vilar, the artistic director has been entirely free to draw his or her programme up. All the public bodies involved always respected this independence, regardless of their political leanings.
- offers, every year, about 50 shows, from France and all over the world, for a total of about 250 performances. Many of those shows are created for the Festival, or are being shown for the first time in France.
- organises, around those shows, encounters with the artists of the Festival, readings of original texts, film screenings, and exhibitions, which allow the audience to better understand the work of those artists by encountering it from different angles.
- turns about twenty locations, most of them historical and open air, into stages and theatre houses, very diverse in terms of both architecture and capacity, from 50 to 2,000 people.
- delivers between 110,000 and 120,000 tickets for paying shows and welcomes between 20,000 and 30,000 people to its free events. Roughly 33% of its audience comes from Avignon and its area, 26% from Ile-de-France, 27% from the rest of France, and 14% from abroad. Over the past few years, the average attendance level for shows of the Festival has been over 90%.
- welcomes more than 500 journalists, from France and abroad, who write more than 2,000 articles about the Festival. A number of television and radio shows are also recorded live. All major newspapers send correspondents to the Festival, which is also covered by about fifty photographers.
- welcomes almost 3,500 professionals of the performing arts, come from all over the world, to take part in panels and debates about the theatre arts and cultural policies. A true professional forum, the Festival organises debates every day to confront ideas and points of view and help it be a unique moment in the cultural life of Europe. A guide for performing arts professionals, printed at 20,000 copies, includes more details on those events.
- prints every year 50,000 pre-programmes and 80,000 programmes. In July, 30,000 copies of the Spectator Guide (a guide to the Festival's free events) are handed out. The website, available in French and English, remains as popular ; so does the Festival's Facebook page, created in June 2010, with over 70,000 Likes, or over 13,000 individual visitors. The Festival's Twitter account has 34, 000 followers
- has a budget of 13 million euros for 2018 (not including services in kind provided by the City), whose expenditures are as follows: 36% for programming, producing and co-producing, and cultural activities; 35% for the technical organisation and operating of the Festival's various locations; 29% for upkeep (including that of the FabricA), administration, and communication. Its resources come for 56% from public subventions (55% of which from the French government, 13% from the City of Avignon, not including services in kind, 14% from the Communauté d'Agglomération du Grand Avignon, 9 % from the Département de Vaucluse, 8 % from the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), and for 44% from its own revenue (ticket sales, sponsors, non-commercial partnerships, specific partnerships, show sales, etc.).
- has established long-term relationships with a number of sponsors, first among which the Fondation Crédit Coopératif. The Festival has created a circle of companies partnered with the Festival, which includes about twenty small businesses, as well as a circle of individual sponsors.
- generates an economic windfall for the city worth between 23 and 25 million euros (not including revenue generated by other events such as the Off, professional panels, etc.).
Concurrently with the Festival d'Avignon, the Off welcomes over 3,000 companies, which put on shows on their own initiative in about a hundred different locations, after raising the necessary funds.