Cannes Film Festival Weighing Up June-July Dates As Chances Of May Event Recede

Cannes Special Edition
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The Cannes Film Festival is continuing to weigh up a postponement of its traditional May kickoff until a date between late June and late July, organizers have told us.

With the pandemic still causing havoc across the world and with the vaccine rollout in France not moving as quickly as hoped, a May 11 start date is regarded by industry as increasingly unlikely.

“The 2021 Festival de Cannes is still scheduled in May,” a festival spokesperson told us. “However, we are waiting until later in the beginning of this year to evaluate the global situation regarding the pandemic. If it doesn’t improve, we will work on new dates, from late June to late July. But the Festival will take place this year.”

Regarding a timeframe for a decision, the festival told us one would come “as soon as we can, but probably a few weeks from now.”

Advertising event Cannes Lions is due to take place at the Palais des Festival at the end of June, while real estate confab MIPIM is scheduled for early June. Private capital get-together IPEM is due to take place in early July at the same location.

Last fall, Cannes Film Festival chiefs said they were considering three contingency dates should a May event not be possible in 2021: one in the first half of July, another in the second half of July, and a third in the second half of August.

Covid-19 cases remain alarmingly high across the world and many countries still have significant travel restrictions in place. Europe remains under siege from the pandemic. France recently introduced a nationwide 6pm curfew as the country passed 70,000 deaths. The country recorded 403 deaths yesterday and close to 40,000 new cases over the weekend. Across the channel, the UK recorded a staggering 1,600 deaths in the last 24 hours alone.

There is growing skepticism among industry that May can be a viable window for the film festival but most professionals we speak to are keen that the vital movie showcase can happen (safely) in a physical capacity at some point this year.

Vincent Maraval, co-founder of French sales firm and festival stalwart Wild Bunch, said: “I don’t see how Cannes can take place in May in the configuration that we know and hope the next edition will be.”

Croisette regular Roberto Proia, Executive Director of Theatrical Distribution & Productions at Italian firm Eagle Pictures, commented: “I believe that May is highly unlikely but I am sure the festival will bend over backwards to make it happen in the summer, perhaps in a shorter version. However, the big issue apart from the ripple effect on other festivals is the fact that in the summer Cannes in usually at full capacity with traditional holiday tourism. As an industry professional, I sincerely hope the festival happens. We have really missed it.”

The view from the U.S. is similar. Brian O’Shea, CEO of sales firm The Exchange, said: “At the moment we are hopeful that Cannes will happen in person this June and to attend. As long as it happens before end of July it would not disrupt the traditional buying patterns or established summer vacations in August.”

“It’s very unlikely that Cannes will happen as we know it,” added Al Munteanu, CEO of German distributor-producer SquareOne Entertainment. “My expectation is that Toronto or AFM will be the first markets to bounce back in physical form.”

Last year, Cannes waited until one month before it was due to start before calling off its May event. Industry are hoping for more notice in 2021.

“If Cannes is happening at a later date, it would be wise to decide now,” suggested LA-based communications executive Laurent Boye of Jazo PR. “The logistics of prepping for such a large event mean that last-minute postponements don’t help.”

2020 marked the first time in 73 years that Cannes didn’t take place as a physical festival. Organizers did put on a three-day event in October where a handful of festival selections were screened.

The Berlin Film Festival, which was due to take place in February, last month cancelled its in-person event in favour of an online edition and a smaller physical gathering in the summer.

Venice, which is the only A-list film festival to take place in physical form since the pandemic took hold last spring, is still on course to take place over its traditional end of August-early September dates. The Italian event recently announced Bong Joon Ho as jury president.

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