Coronavirus: Cannes Ploughs On Despite Global Cancellations & France Closures, Says “We Will Evaluate Festival Configuration By End Of April”

Cannes 2019
The Palais des festivals in Cannes Arthur Mola/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Despite a global pandemic, thousands of cases of coronavirus in France and mass entertainment cancellations, the Cannes Film Festival is ploughing ahead with plans to stage an event in early May.

The festival reiterated to us today, “The festival staff members are currently working to prepare the event scheduled, as usual, the second week of May (May 12-23).”

Unlike advertising confab Cannes Lions, which takes place one month after the Cannes Film Festival, organizers told us they have not set a precise cutoff date for announcing whether the event will cancel or postpone. A spokesperson said the festival could wait until the end of April to decide what shape the festival might take, implying that it could look different to what we are used to.

“For now, no date has been set for a decision [on whether to cancel]. The festival will announce its selection on April 16th and by the end of April we will evaluate in which configuration the festival will take place.”

Festival president Pierre Lescure said earlier this week he was “reasonably optimistic” the festival could go ahead but that organizers are “not oblivious” and that if the coronavirus situation doesn’t improve, the festival would be cancelled.

However, as was the case with SXSW, indications are that it would be local government that instigates any cancellation, rather than the festival, which told us it is business as usual in terms of submissions.

“The number of film submissions is as steady as previous years and the process has not been disrupted,” the spokesperson added. “Right now, the selection committee is very much focused on this.”


Movies that have been speculated as potential Cannes pics this year include Wes Anderson’s French Dispatch, Leos Carax’s Annette, Nanni Moretti’s Tre Piani and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria. But film companies we’ve spoken to are increasingly sceptical as to the viability of the festival.

Against a backdrop of European cinema closures and mass gatherings being cancelled across the continent, some are asking at what stage optimism and stoicism become foolhardy. Hundreds of thousands pass through Cannes during the festival. The Palais hub has a capacity of more than 10,000 and all cinemas have capacities in the hundreds or thousands. Companies spend thousands – often tens of thousands – of dollars to attend but most people’s spring schedules are currently in limbo.

Last night U.S. studios cancelled the LA Screenings event which takes place in May. This morning, European football body UEFA postponed the Champions League and Europa League tournaments and is considering postponing this summer’s Euro football tournament in June. Today, The English and French soccer leagues were both suspended.

Yesterday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron declared the pandemic “France’s worst health crisis in a century” and said that all schools and universities in the country would close from Monday. This morning, as we went to press, France banned gatherings of more than 100 people (no cut off date for the edict was given). Disneyland Paris is also closing. However, local elections are still slated to go ahead.

Some leading film companies we have spoken to are starting to weigh up contingency plans in case of a Cannes cancellation, including virtual market scenarios and localized buyer screenings of promos and movies.

That said, Cannes claimed last week that accreditations were up 9% year-on-year. The event, which is still considered the world’s biggest and most prestigious film festival, generates tens of millions of dollars for the local region. Last year was a banner edition with movies including Parasite and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

As of March 12, 134,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in more than 120 countries. There have been close to 5,000 deaths.

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