Film festivals the world round are shuttering their doors amid the coronavirus outbreak, from SXSW to the San Francisco International Film Festival, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and many more. The one still standing is the biggest of all: the 2020 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, set to take place on the French riviera May 12 through 23. However, according to a report in Le Point and confirmed to IndieWire by festival sources, Cannes isn’t going to decide whether or not it will cancel its 73rd edition until April 15, the day before the competition lineup is set to be revealed.
On April 15, the decision will be made among festival staff, in cooperation with the city and state services. “Despite some sensational headlines, there is no new [news] regarding the Festival de Cannes,” a Cannes spokesperson told IndieWire. “The event, that should take place from May 12 to May 23, is studying with care and clarity the evolution of the national and international situation, in close cooperation with the City of Cannes and the CNC. When the time comes, around mid-April, they will take the necessary decision together.”
Most of the over 150,000 confirmed global cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, so far have been seen in mainland China, but numbers have dramatically increased in Europe and the U.S. in recent weeks. The French government previously prohibited gatherings of 5,000 people or more in confined venues, with that cap then reduced to 1,000 or more. Now, the country has ordered all non-essential public spaces to close, including all movie theaters, restaurants, and stores. France so far has 79 deaths and 3,661 cases as of Saturday morning.
While Cannes organizers may be able to limit the maximum capacity throughout its screening venues, that will be a challenge for the Marche du Film, which in 2019 attracted more than 12,500 participants from over 120 countries, with representatives from more than 5,000 companies.
“It will be very difficult, not to to say impossible, to select films coming from China, Korea, Iran, Italy and undoubtedly of about 50 countries, knowing that the actors, and [directors] will not be able to move,” a source told Le Point. “Showing films in a 2,000-seat auditorium [the large Louis Lumière auditorium has 2,300 seats] will not be authorized and the slightest alert will worry festival-goers. And what about Spike Lee, president of the jury? We know the hypersensitivity of Hollywood to hygiene issues. I can’t see him staying a fortnight in the middle of a crowd at the uncontrolled health status.”
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.