Tomorrow was supposed to mark the first day of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. However, back in March, the event was postponed in light of the coronavirus, with plans to stage the cinematic celebration in July. Now, though, festival director Thierry Frémaux has told Screen Daily that the 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival has officially been canceled altogether.

Frémaux and the Cannes team seem to have come to a conclusion that’s becoming increasingly evident around the entertainment industry: hosting major events in 2020 appears to be impracticable. “Under the circumstances, a physical edition of Cannes 2020 is hard to envisage, so we’ll have to do something different,” Frémaux said. “A ‘festival’ is a collective party, a spectacle that brings together an audience in a given location, in this case on the Croisette, in the presence of thousands of people. Everyone understands that that’s impossible this year. The Cannes Film Festival, which by its nature is a globalised institution, can’t escape being a victim in the same way as the rest of human activities.”

Unlike the SXSW and Tribeca film festivals, don’t expect to watch Cannes films or panels on demand or via livestreams (sorry, YouPorn). Instead, Frémaux said a list of official selections will be revealed in early June, limited to films “scheduled to be released theatrically between now and spring 2021.” From there, the plan is to “start organizing events in cinemas,” something Frémaux dubbed “Cannes hors les murs” (“Cannes outside the walls”).


Some of those screenings will potentially see Cannes teaming with other film festivals scheduled for later this year (should they avoid their own cancellations, of course). “We’ll go to Toronto, Deauville, Angoulême, San Sebastian, New York, Busan in Korea, and even the Lumière festival in Lyon, which is a festival of contemporary and classical cinema, which will host numerous films,” said Frémaux, who is also managing direction of Lumière. “And with Venice, we want to go even further and present films together.”

However, not every movie initially slotted for Cannes will make it “outside the walls.” “For now, we’re focused on the films that are due to be released in theatres and need our support,” Frémaux revealed. Some filmmakers have chosen to hold their productions back until the 2021 Cannes, while others are heading to streaming services.

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods falls into that latter category; the Vietnam War drama starring Chadwick Boseman, Jonathan Majors, and Paul Walter Hauser is debuting on Netflix on June 12th. It would have been represented at Cannes as an Out of Competition selection, coinciding with Lee’s role as the official competition jury president. Fremaux said he was hopeful Lee could still hold the honor next year.


Other films Frémaux originally intended to premiere at Cannes included Pixar’s Soul, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and Nanni Moretti’s Three Stories.

Fremaux spoke about Cannes’ desire to support theatrical releases as much as possible given the current circumstances:

“It would have been ridiculous to behave as if nothing had happened. But in our heart of hearts what we want to do is promote the films that we saw and loved. We received films from around the world, magnificent works, and it’s our duty to help them find their audience… Professionals the world over with whom we’re in contact on a daily basis, tell us that this represents an opportunity for their projects.”