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Palm Springs Calls Off 2022 Festival: Other Cancellations as Hollywood Braces for Omicron

Rising case numbers worldwide are leading to a cascade of canceled events, raising concerns about the viability of major film events slated for early 2022.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs Film Festival

Palm Springs Film Festival

Update, December 29: The Palm Springs International Film Festival has canceled its entire event for 2022, meaning screenings will not take place this January 7-17 as planned. The news follows after, earlier this month, Palm Springs called off its awards gala due to rising Covid concerns. See the festival’s statement below:

“Based on the current rise of COVID cases, the Palm Springs International Film Society has announced that the Film Festival will not take place this year from January 7-17. This follows the cancellation of the January 6 Film Awards. After thoughtful consideration, the Film Society feels this is the most responsible decision to ensure the safety of our patrons, filmmakers, and staff. Those who have purchased festival tickets and passes will receive a refund. For most, the refund will be returned to their original method of payment.

“At this time Palm Springs ShortFest is scheduled to return June 21-27, 2022. The Film Festival and Film Awards will return to an in-person event in January 2023. The Film Awards will partner with Entertainment Tonight to celebrate this year’s honorees with details to follow. The festival will announce juried award winners from the official selection on January 15 via press release and social media.”

Update, December 23: Slamdance has announced that it’s canceling the in-person portion of its hybrid festival that had been scheduled in Park City, Utah, for January 20-23. The festival will also move back the start of its virtual event one week to accommodate the migration of in-person content to an online presentation. The new dates for the virtual Slamdance are January 27-February 6. “Although we are disappointed that we won’t be able to participate in the communal, in-person experience, we know we can create a unique festival experience for all of our filmmakers through Slamdance’s online platform,” said Peter Baxter, Slamdance president and co-founder. “We are looking forward to utilizing the expertise we’ve already gained in attracting a global audience, building upon our accessibility goals and pushing the boundaries of what a decentralized festival can be.”

International Film Festival Rotterdam announced it will be unable to move forward with an in-person festival next month amid a nationwide lockdown in the Netherlands. Instead, the festival will present a scaled-down, online program.

The National Board of Review announced it will postpone its annual gala, which was scheduled for January 11 in New York City, to a later date. Further details on the postponement will be announced in the coming weeks.

Earlier, December 22: The Critics Choice Association announced that it has postponed the Critics Choice Awards, originally planned for January 9. “After thoughtful consideration and candid conversations with our partners at The CW and TBS, we have collectively come to the conclusion that the prudent and responsible decision at this point is to postpone the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards, originally slated for January 9, 2022. We are in constant communication with LA County Health Officials, and we are currently working diligently to find a new date during the upcoming awards season in which to host our annual gala in-person with everyone’s safety and health remaining our top priority. We will be sharing additional details with our friends and colleagues throughout the entertainment industry as soon as we can,” reads a statement from the CCA.

The Cinema Eye Honors ceremony, planned for January 13 in Queens, has been postponed. Organizers of the celebration of nonfiction filmmaking announced they will assess their options in the first week of January with the hope of rescheduling the event for later in January or February.

After canceling last year’s Governors Awards due to the pandemic, this year the Academy is postponing Hollywood’s popular networking event, which was scheduled for Saturday, January 15 at Hollywood and Highland. The Academy statement reads: “We have made the difficult decision to change our plans in hosting the Governors Awards in person on January 15. Given the uncertainties around the variants, and the impact this could have on our community, we feel this is the best and safest decision for our honorees and guests. Rescheduled plans will come at a later date as we continue to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all those involved.”

In addition, the Academy is taking measures within its membership in response to the rise of cases. A series of in-person screenings of shortlisted films planned to begin on January 4 have been canceled, the Academy wrote in an email to members Wednesday afternoon. Instead, members have been directed to the online Academy Screening Room to watch contenders. The January screenings would have marked the return of in-person screenings hosted by the Academy after it made the decision in August to postpone in-person events until 2022.

December 21: The New York Film Critics Circle announced it will postpone its awards ceremony, which was scheduled to take place on January 10 in Manhattan. A new date will be announced early next year. The Hollywood Critics Association announced its awards ceremony, set for January 8 in Los Angeles, will be postponed to February 28.

Those postponements came as the Critics Choice Awards is moving forward as planned with a televised ceremony set for January 9. In a statement released Monday, the Critics Choice Association said the event will require proof of vaccination, a negative test within 48 hours, social distancing, and masking.

The association noted that it will “continue to carefully monitor the situation as events progress.”

December 20: With still over two weeks before the events were set to take place, organizers of the Palm Springs Film Awards Gala and BAFTA Tea Party canceled their events on Monday. The American Film Institute, meanwhile, postponed its annual AFI Awards luncheon to a later date. The cancelations, coupled with others over the last week, raise concerns about whether the pandemic surge will take down other events scheduled in the coming weeks.

For months, the industry seemed to be marching toward a version of normal not seen since the start of the pandemic. But that’s changed in just the last week, as the spread of the Omicron variant and a rising number of overall cases led to the postponement of the LA premiere of “Cyrano,” while the producers of “Saturday Night Live” pivoted at the last minute to a pared-down show with no audience (and sans musical guest Charli XCX, who also bowed out). Meantime, CNN, Lionsgate, and Starz closed their offices, and Broadway shows including “Hamilton” have gone dark until after Christmas.

It comes as New York state on Sunday saw the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic started, marking the third consecutive day for such a record. In LA County, the number of daily cases on Sunday doubled compared to just a few days before.

The Omicron variant accounts for nearly three-quarters of new cases nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. It’s two to three times more likely to spread than the earlier Delta variant, according to the New York Times.

President Joe Biden plans to address the country on Tuesday about the virus, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, noting that it’s “not a speech about shutting the country down” and that the virus “is not the same threat to fully vaccinated individuals that it was in March 2020.”

However, the recent trend of calling off events that include large gatherings of people is reminiscent of those early days of the pandemic. There will be no live audience for the New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown LA, which organizers announced on Monday will pivot to streaming-only. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’ll have an update this week about the Times Square celebration.

The Palm Springs gala draws A-listers and thousands more each year and is closely watched thanks to its track record of predicting Oscar nominees. While the ceremony has been called off for the second year in a row, the awards will be presented in a partnership with Entertainment Tonight, with details to follow, the Palm Springs International Film Society said in a statement.

The AFI Awards luncheon set for January 7 will be rescheduled for another date, while the BAFTA Tea Party set for January 8 has been canceled. Both are LA events.

The three events were set to occur just days before the January 9 Critics Choice Awards ceremony. The Critics Choice Association hasn’t announced any changes to the planned event. A rep for the group did not respond to a request for comment.

The largest event that stands to be impacted by rising cases is the Sundance Film Festival, which is planning a hybrid in-person and online festival beginning January 20.

Last year’s festival was largely online-only and widely deemed a success: It boasted Sundance’s largest-ever audience, saw the record-breaking sale of “CODA,” and launched major films like “Flee” and “Summer of Soul.” That said, many industry players have been looking forward to returning to Park City in January for a more full in-person experience.

Sundance hasn’t announced any changes to its plans for the festival, which runs through January 30. But the structure of this year’s festival means organizers are ready for anything. Public ticket packages and press and industry passes all include access to online screenings, and Sundance is bringing back its Satellite Screens program in partnership with arthouses across the country.

“Wherever you are, we can accommodate whatever the next couple of months throws at us and still have the festival,” festival director Tabitha Jackson told IndieWire earlier this month.

As of earlier this month, Sundance planned to require all festival attendees to be fully vaccinated and provide a negative test result within 48 hours prior to checking in. Additionally, employees, filmmakers, and press and industry members will be required to provide a negative test every 48 hours throughout the festival. Masks will be required inside. Sundance did not respond to a request for comment.

Also ahead is the Berlin International Film Festival, which kicks off on February 10. Variety reported that organizers are working on contingency plans in case the pandemic situation requires a change in plans.

For a full view of what’s head this awards season, check out IndieWire’s awards calendar here.

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