The coronavirus has led to the Cannes film festival to call off this year’s event as scheduled in May.
The world’s most prestigious film festival made it official, announcing that its 2020 edition would not take place as planned in late May due to fears of infection connected to the continuing spread of the coronavirus in Europe.
The official festival account tweeted, “Due to the health crisis and the development of the French and international situation, the Festival de Cannes will no longer be able to take place on the dates planned, from May 12 to 23.”
Organizers are still holding out hope that the 2020 festival can been held at a later date. In a statement, organizers said they were considering “several options” to hold the festival “the main one being a simple postponement…until the end of June, beginning of July 2020.”
Cannes said “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, in accordance with our ongoing consultation with the French Government and Cannes’ City Hall as well as with the Festival’s Board Members, Film industry professionals and all the partners of the event.”
In the meantime, Cannes gave its “vocal support” to everyone in France to respect the general lockdown which forbids people from leaving their homes except for essential outings, such as for work or to buy groceries. Festival organizers called for a show of general solidarity “in these difficult times for the entire world.”
It is unclear what this will mean for the Marche du Film, the film market that runs alongside the Cannes festival. Earlier this week, the Marche announced it would set up a virtual market “alongside the physical event” to run May 12-23. It is likely the virtual market will be moved as well to accommodate Cannes’ later start date.
A series of independent film companies, led by the CAA agency, have floated plans for an alternative virtual market to run during Cannes’ original dates in the event the festival was canceled.
This marks the first time in its modern history that the Cannes Film Festival has not started as planned. The fest, which was scheduled to run May 12-May 23 in the French seaside resort, has been held every year since its start in 1946. Cannes has only once been suspended, in 1968, after directors, expressing solidarity with students and workers demonstrating across France, withdrew their films from the festival and forced it to shut down.
But growing concerns over the safety of visitors led Cannes to take this extreme step and postpone the 2020 event.
The first known case of coronavirus in the region came Feb. 28, when Nice mayor Christian Estrosi confirmed a woman in Cannes had tested positive for the illness. Across France there has been a rising number of confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths.
On Feb. 29, the French government ordered a nationwide ban on gatherings of 5,000 people or more, putting the iconic cinema event at risk.
But as infection rates continued to soar, Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron introduced more drastic measures. On Tuesday, he put the entire country on a 15-day lockdown.
France has more than 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 240 deaths from the disease.
Health worries concerning the virus had already led international television market MipTV, which is also held in Cannes, to shutter. The fear was that thousands of attendees coming from around the world to gather in the close confines of the Cannes Palais and screening rooms would be too dangerous given the rapid spread of the respiratory illness.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.