France’s Cannes Film Festival, arguably the world’s most prestigious film festival and cinema’s largest annual gathering, has postponed its 73rd edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Organisers of the French Riviera festival, scheduled to take place on May 12-23, said that they are considering moving the festival to the end of June or the beginning of July.
“Several hypotheses are being studied to preserve the festival, the main one of which would be a simple postponement,” the festival said in a statement. “As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known.”
Organisers had been extremely reluctant to cancel Cannes. For weeks, its organisers deflected questions and tried to push through its selection process. But as the pandemic spread through France, it became all but inevitable that a massive gathering like Cannes would be canceled. On Saturday, France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe ordered the closure of all restaurants, cafes and cinemas in France to increase social distancing and combat the virus.
France is in its third day of a lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. Almost 11,000 cases have now been officially diagnosed and 372 people have died.
The organisers, who had announced US director Spike Lee as president of this year’s jury, said that several new dates were under consideration, including the end of June-beginning of July.
It is not the first time the festival has been postponed. Its inaugural event in 1939 was cut short after the opening screening of the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” because of Germany’s invasion of Poland the next day. The prizes were eventually awarded in 2002.
It was also interrupted in May 1968 amid student and labour protests sweeping across France.
The announcement is another blow to the film industry. Beyond the star-studded glitzy screenings, production and distribution firms head to the Cote d’Azur to complete deals, while executives from across the world gather to represent their nations’ film industries.
According to the US entertainment industry union IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) about 120,000 people have already lost their jobs in Hollywood as a consequence of the outbreak.
The Cannes festival is the latest event in the entertainment industry to be postponed or canceled. New York’s Tribeca Film Festival was put back earlier this month as was the release of big budget movies including “Mulan” and the latest James Bond movie “No Time to Die.”
Music festivals Glastonbury and Coachella have been cancelled and theatres in London and on Broadway have been closed.
“As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known,” the Cannes organisers said.