After many attempts to carry on, the Telluride Film Festival has given into the reality of the coronavirus pandemic and continuing outbreaks across the nation and today announced it is cancelling the 2020 edition that had been scheduled to run , as usual, over the Labor Day weekend from September 3-7.
Considering the worsening situation in many parts of the country and the logistical challenges of just getting to the remote Colorado mountain location for many in the first place, the decision by Telluride toppers is not surprising. Word is the festival was waiting until the Town Council meeting on July 21 to officially give the fest a go or not, but TFF tells me that meeting was not a factor in to whether to proceed or not. The great majority of almost weekly summer festivals in Telluride have cancelled those gatherings this year.
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The festival also relies on remaking certain venues around the small town into state-of-the-art theaters, including two of the three largest that take place in temporarily restructured school gyms and auditoriums. I had heard that the school district recently nixed those plans for this year, so Telluride’s Galaxy and Palm “theaters” would not be available, but festival brass tell me it actually was their decision not to use the school venues this year. I also heard that organizers were hoping to move more of the festival outside.
Telluride is not planning to try a virtual version as Toronto, Venice and New York are contemplating (at least in part of the plans formulating for those fests). Again, the logistics of such an enterprise are much more difficult in the Colorado mountains where even phone reception can be spotty for some carriers (I know this from experience.) Festival organizers plan to release what they already have programmed in the near future so that movie lovers can seek out “the best in film this year… at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice Film Festival, or when they’re made available on a wider basis.”
Along with Venice and Toronto, Telluride is considered highly influential among the Fall Festival Trifecta, as it is known, in terms of influencing and launching Oscar-season contenders. Another hurdle for the fest happened when the Academy moved the 93rd Oscars to April 25 and extended eligibility to the end of February 2021. That made an appearance at a late-summer festival less likely for many titles that would otherwise be eager to premiere there.
As a veteran Telluride-goer and reporter (the festival was the very first thing I wrote about upon coming to Deadline exactly a decade ago in 2010), this is a sad turn of events, but it is the world we are living in at the moment.
Here is the official letter sent by the festival:
After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we’ve come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year’s Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride.
While there will be those who might say they’re not surprised by it, that this was inevitable, we beg to differ. It didn’t have to be this way. Until the past week or so, we had a very good plan to put on the SHOW safely. But with a seemingly unending number of new cases of Covid-19 and the national chaos around it, even the best strategy is threatened by this out of control environment. No matter how much many of us wear our masks and observe social distancing protocols, the pandemic has worsened rather than improved and the health and safety of you – our passholders, filmmakers, the people of Telluride and its surrounding areas – cannot be compromised.
As you may know, we have been working cooperatively with our fellow fall film festival partners to champion global cinema and its artists. We hope that many of you will seek out and discover the titles we’ve selected for this year’s program at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice Film Festival, or when they’re made available on a wider basis. We will announce soon what we have carefully programmed in the hopes that you will experience as we did, the best in film this year. There are some incredible, powerful, and beautiful gems and we’re excited to extol their virtues when the time is right. Follow these titles, support them. We intend to champion them outside of the festival as best we can.
For those who have supported us and believe in what we are trying to do, our gratitude is enormous. Thank you. We will need you in the coming months in many ways. Let’s light candles now to conjure a better 2021 and Labor Day weekend in Telluride, together, under the stars in the mountains doing what many of us love the most. The way we prefer to experience cinema will return. Let’s make it so.
We wish you good health, peace and may we collectively move forward to a better world.
We understand that film festivals and their long-term health are not top of mind today. A safe vaccine, vital medical interventions for those sick and properly enforced health regulations are. However, we do ask that you take this moment to consider a world where gathering around a shared love of culture is no longer possible and what that means for the psychological condition of the world. If the prospect prompts a sense of despair, please advocate and champion the return of our gatherings that provide vital nourishment and oxygen to humanity’s soul, at the appropriate time, of course!
We will follow up with information and options regarding passes in a separate email.
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