Director Fergus Linehan has revealed that the festival is considering having an "extended season" of events instead of programming all its shows for a three-week period in August, when the combined audiences for shows can surpass four million.
His suggestions echo calls from the Cockburn Association heritage watchdog for the city to "spread the load" of major events throughout the year rather than have most of them in August.
Mr Linehan, who shifted the EIF's dates a week earlier in the calendar when he was appointed to bring the event into line with the Fringe, suggested the festival could also stage more public art shows and outdoor events in the near future.
And he hinted that filmed elements of shows and productions would play a major part in the festival’s plans in future.
The EIF was forced to call off its planned 2020 programme in April, when the city’s main summer festivals took a collective decision to pull the plug on the events for the first time due to the growing impact of the pandemic.
The Festival rebooted in the summer when it staged a series of performances in venues behind closed doors to creating a programme of online work, which was seen by more than a million people in 47 countries.
In an interview with the classical music website Vox Carnyx, Mr Linehan said: “I think what is becoming clear is that the future is not about everything or nothing, but a question of what the 12 months look like, about taking some of the emphasis away from August. That might mean looking at an extended season.“We’ve got to think a lot more about what Scotland’s cultural calendar looks like and what’s our collective duty towards that? Earlier in the year do we need to gravitate towards things that are more like public art, or more outdoors, and then to skew things in another way?
“It’s going to be a constant testing, a constant moving forward.”
The Cockburn Association has called for a greater spread of events throughout the year when they return to help “mitigate” the growing overcrowding problems which have been reported in the city centre in August during recent years and boost hotel occupancy levels outwith the traditional summer peak. Ideas it has put forward included moving the Tattoo to May, staging the book festival inside September when indoor venues could be used for the event, and created a dedicated “festival of comedy” in the spring.
Cockburn Association chair Cliff Hague said today: “The longer the pandemic goes on, the less the future looks like the past.
"Smart cities and smart cultural organisations and artists will be those who are prepared to experiment and adapt, rather than invest money and energy in 'getting back to normal'.
"The festivalisation of Edinburgh had already caused much concern, particularly with the cavalier use of public space as part of the wider commercialisation of culture.
"We should plan now to make 2021 a year of transition, refreshing the festivals for a more digital, globally connected but also locally rooted age. Active community engagement in shaping that new approach is essential.”