Cannes admits risk of cancellation

Festival president “optimistic” but concedes threat is real

by Richard Mowe

Cannes duo: Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival (left) and Pierre Lescure, President: “We are not oblivious. If [the situation does not improve] we’ll cancel.”
Cannes duo: Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival (left) and Pierre Lescure, President: “We are not oblivious. If [the situation does not improve] we’ll cancel.” Photo: Richard Mowe

For the first time since the coronavirus has disrupted national life in France and around the globe, the organisers of the Cannes Film Festival have conceded that cancellation of the event could be on the cards if the situation fails to improve.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro, Pierre Lescure, the festival’s President, has admitted that the festival (scheduled to run from 12 to 23 May) is not insured against cancellation. He told the publication: “"We remain reasonably optimistic in the hope that the peak of the epidemic will be reached at the end of March and that we will breathe a little better in April. But we are not oblivious. If [the situation does not improve], we’ll cancel."

His remarks come in the wake of the decision to limit gatherings in France to no more than 1,000 people (the festival’s largest theatre seats 2,300). Series Mania, a television festival in Lille which was due to start on 20 March, has been cancelled and earlier the Cannes MipTV Festival announced it has also has been postponed.

Lescure suggested that the festival had enough resources in its funds to allow it to survive if circumstances force a cancellation. He was quoted as saying: “We can face a year without revenue.”

After Italy France is Europe’s second most affected country with to date 1784 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 33 deaths.

The festival plans to launch its programme on 16 April, but already a sprinkling of companies have said they will not attend due to the uncertainty, including UK sales outfit GFM. The company’s co-founder Guy Collins who has been attending the festival for more than four decades, has said “For us, this is about how to manage our business at a time when travel is becoming problematic. We’ve got to be responsible and we’ve got to be proactive.” Others are said to be monitoring the situation, especially American studios.

The only occasion on which the Cannes Film Festival was cancelled was in 1968 during the civil unrest and general strike which brought the country to a virtual halt.

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