Film festivals have become a widespread phenomenon over the last fifty years and are leading events establishing the reputation of film professionals and constitute a well-established field in itself. Studying the cities of Copenhagen and Rome the authors are asking why the public authorities of these cities establish their own film festivals in an already saturated field of international film festivals? The focus is on the strategic responses and work made by two late adopters of film festivals – Copenhagen and Rome and their international film festivals, CIFF and ‘Festa del Cinema di Roma’. The comparative case study is based on qualitative data and methods. It investigates how the two festivals establish, legitimate and position themselves within the existing, institutionalised field of international film festivals. Combining the classical work on early and late adopters in the diffusion of ideas and practices with forms of legitimacy and institutional work, it is demonstrated how different and sometimes conflicting demands from various stakeholders, like public authorities and the film industry, have shaped the frames used to position and legitimize the film festivals.