Cannes Festival President: "We'll Cancel" if Coronavirus Situation Doesn't Improve

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Pierre Lescure

In an interview with a French newspaper, Pierre Lescure says he remains “reasonably optimistic” this year's festival will go ahead as planned, but acknowledged Cannes is not insured against cancelation.

The Cannes Film Festival is not canceled. Not yet. But for the first time since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Cannes has acknowledged it could skip this year's edition.

In an interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper published on Wednesday, Cannes festival president Pierre Lescure said the fate of this year's festival remains uncertain.

"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," Lescure said. "But we are not oblivious. If [the situation does not improve], we’ll cancel."

There has been speculation for weeks that Cannes could be moved or dropped amid the increasing spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, across Europe. France on Sunday introduced new measures banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Television market MIPTV, scheduled to take place in Cannes at the end of March, has been canceled.

On Wednesday, Series Media, a television festival in Lille set to kick off March 20, was also called off.

Cannes organizers have so far tried to assuage concerns, saying they are proceeding as planned and will unveil their lineup on April 16 as scheduled and start the festival on May 12.

In the French interview, Lescure acknowledged that the Cannes festival is not insured against the loss of revenue that would result from a cancelation as a force majeure event of this kind is not covered by Cannes' insurance policy.

Lescure confirmed reports that insurer Circle Group offered a policy to cover damage caused by the epidemic but that their policy would only have covered some €2 million ($2.3 million) in damages. "Our budget is €32 million ($36 million). It was really peanuts," Lescure said of the insurance offer. "The company was clearly playing the bounty hunters, and we of course declined this proposal."

The Cannes president said the festival had sufficient resources in its endowment fund to allow it to survive even if it is forced to cancel this year. "We can face a year without revenue," he said.

France now has 1,784 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and has seen 33 deaths, making it the second-worst affected country in Europe after Italy.