Hong Kong Film Festival, Filmart Content Market Both Postponed Due to Coronavirus Fears

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Originally slated for late March, Asia's largest content market and Hong Kong's flagship cinema event will both take place in August instead.

The 44th Hong Kong International Film Festival has been postponed to August due to the global coronavirus outbreak, organizers of the event said Thursday. Earlier the same day Hong Kong's Filmart, Asia's largest film and television content market, also announced that it would be shifting its dates to August. 

Originally slated to run March 25-28, the 23rd edition of Filmart is now scheduled to be held Aug. 27-29. The Hong Kong Film Festival's new dates have yet to be determined. “We hope to be able to share more information regarding a postponed HKIFF44 following discussions with screenings venues, as well as our many stakeholders, partners and sponsors,” said Albert Lee, executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society.

The dual postponements follow the recent cancellation of other high-profile international cultural events in the city, such as Art Basel and Art Central, both of which were slated to be held in March. A decision on whether to postpone the Hong Kong Sevens rugby event, a global sporting occasion held in the city each April, is still pending.

Earlier this week, Beijing officials began to voice cautious optimism that the coronavirus epidemic was beginning to be contained. But on Wednesday, they confirmed infections spiked by 15,152 new cases because of a change in diagnostic criteria. The death toll also climbed by a record 254 deaths to 1,367 in total. 

The number of cases in Hong Kong remains relatively low, at 50 infections, but anxiety in the city remains high. It is unclear whether Filmart could have continued without the participation of mainland Chinese companies. As the Beijing industry has boomed, Filmart has seen an increasingly strong Chinese presence in recent years. Last year, 264 exhibitors out of 888 were from mainland China.

Since news of the coronavirus epidemic in China hit in late January, more than 80 percent of the Hong Kong population has requested the closing of the border between China and Hong Kong to contain the outbreak. A strike by medical professionals took place last week to demand stemming the flow of travelers from China to Hong Kong. Thus far, however, the Hong Kong government has refused to stop the influx, only closing some lesser-used arrival ports.

The outbreak of the coronavirus — recently named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization — has affected people and events globally. Berlin's European Film Market has been hit with heavy cancellations from industry professionals in China and across Asia. The total number of infected so far is estimated to exceed 60,000.