In a significant and yet not entirely unexpected development, the Dubai International Film Festival has canceled its upcoming edition. As part of a “new strategy” the December festival announced that it will take place every two years in a different format. The new format and team behind it remains unclear, however. Rumours had been swirling about potential problems.

Jamal Al Sharif, Chairman of the Dubai Film And TV Commission, posted the following message on the festival’s website, “With the vast changes taking place both in the regional and global movie-making and content industry, we are seeking to redefine the Dubai International Film Festival’s approach towards nurturing growth, creativity and talent. Innovative new approaches and technologies are transforming the distribution of content and the craft of movie-making. As a forward-thinking player in the global film industry, DIFF seeks to embrace the future of the industry through this strategic shift.”

The Middle East’s biggest festival has been a key hub for local and regional filmmakers and it offered international industry a keen insight into the region’s filmmaking ecosystem. The event has hosted high profile U.S. and international delegations and has offered vital funding and media opportunities for local filmmakers so its disappearance is a real blow. The DIFF statement says that since its creation in 2014, the festival has hosted almost 2,000 screenings including 500 films from the Arab world. Last year, it featured 18 Arab movies, many of which were world premieres, as well as major regional premieres for titles such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Festivals from the region to shutter in recent years include the Abu Dhabi and Doha Tribeca Film Festivals. Some have speculated that Saudi Arabia with its new film operation the Saudi Film Council could step in to fill an important void.