After months of vowing to persevere despite the pandemic, the Telluride Film Festival capitulated Tuesday, announcing the cancellation of this year’s event, scheduled for Sept. 3-7 in the tony Colorado enclave.
The festival is viewed as a key stop in the run-up to the Oscars: in the past decade, seven best-picture winners, including “The Shape of Water,” and “Moonlight,” screened early on in the former mining town.
“After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we’ve come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year’s Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride,” organizers said in a statement. “But with a seemingly unending number of new cases of Covid-19 and the national chaos around it, even the best strategy is threatened by this out-of-control environment.”
The organizers, who traditionally keep the festival’s lineup secret until the day before it begins, say they will still release their schedule to highlight what they see as “the best in film this year.”
Telluride’s cancellation is yet another element of the awards-season ecosystem that has been upended by the coronavirus. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last month that it would push back the 2021 Oscar telecast from late February to April 25, with the hope that the extended period would allow filmmakers more time to finish their movies and release them, either in theaters or on a streaming platform.
Last week, Telluride released a letter of solidarity with three other fall film festivals that in a normal year would be competing ferociously with one another to land the year’s most buzzworthy films. According to the letter, Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival agreed to cooperate, share information and support one another’s events.
“The art form we love is in crisis,” the four festivals wrote. “Our own organizations have seen unprecedented challenges to our work and our financial security. The pandemic caught each of us as we were preparing for the biggest event of our year in the fall of 2020. We knew we had to adapt. We decided to collaborate as we never have before.”
Late last month, Toronto festival organizers announced that they intended to hold a scaled-down version of their event, featuring only 50 films, down from the 300 that debuted in 2019. They are also planning a digital platform that would allow screenings and other events to be conducted virtually.
The Venice Film Festival still intends to run as planned, from Sept. 2 to Sept. 12. In the spring, the New York Film Festival, set for Sept. 25-Oct. 11, said it was exploring a hybrid model similar to Toronto’s plans.