Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival confirm the 2021 festival has been postponed and will now take place July 6-17. Originally the event was set to unfold on the French Riviera May 11-22. In the meantime, the Cannes Lions advertising market is still scheduled for June 21-25. The new Cannes dates for July overlap with dates previously set by Karlovy Vary 2021.
In addition to pandemic considerations, Variety reported earlier this month that one benefit of holding the festival later is the large number of strong films in the pipeline. Hotel owners, influential in the seaside tourism hotspot, would normally object to a summertime festival. But tourism has been hard-hit thanks to the pandemic and cancelation of festivals and trade shows that bring in money.
Mass COVID vaccinations kicked off in the U.S. and Europe last month and the rollout has been slow. With 3 million cases — the highest number in the EU — France is shooting to vaccinate 2.4 million of its 67 million residents by the end of February, according to Reuters.
In addition to the logistical challenges of vaccinating so many people, France is also battling major skepticism in its population: A recent survey found only 40 percent of French said they intended to get vaccinated, putting the country dead last among 14 other nations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The speed at which vaccines are being deployed in France and in other countries that would send filmmakers, agents, buyers, and journalists to Cannes made it unlikely that the May dates would stick. But even these new dates are an ambitious target.
In the U.S., officials are hoping that heard immunity could be achieved once 70 to 85 percent of the population gets inoculated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top disease expert, has repeatedly said that in the most optimistic of scenarios, Americans could expect some return to normalcy by fall. In other words: Don’t expect any large-scale stateside events like film festivals before then.
Cannes last year decided to nix its physical edition amid the pandemic. Instead, the festival announced an official selection, giving a prestigious boost to films like Nicolás Giacobone’s “John and the Hole,” which is set to premiere virtually at Sundance later this month. Additionally, the Marché du Film was held virtually alongside a virtual market organized by agencies.
In October, organizers were able to host a scaled-down in-person event at the Palais, the “2020 Special Cannes” that screened selections “The Big Hit,” “The French Tech,” “True Mothers,” and “Beginning.” But that event was nowhere near the scale typically achieved by the festival.
If the 2021 festival does go off as planned, it would be the second major festival to emerge with an in-person event during the pandemic after the 2020 Venice Film Festival.