Physical Shanghai Film Festival Could Happen In July, Talks Ongoing

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Media reports in China say the event will be held July 18-27, but sources close to the organizers insist discussions to win permission from the government to hold public film screenings are still in progress.

The Shanghai International Film Festival is expected to take place in-person in late July, several reputable Chinese media outlets have reported.

The festival, China's oldest and most prestigious international cinema event, typically is held in mid-June, but it was indefinitely postponed this year in response to the pandemic.

The delayed edition is now expected to run July 18-27, according to leading local business outlet Caixin and the state-affiliated China Securities Journal. Sources at the festival, however, tell The Hollywood Reporter that no specific dates have been set, and that they are still in talks with government authorities to win permission to hold film screenings.

The Shanghai TV Festival has received the official go-ahead to take place Aug. 3-7, but the event is traditionally held in tandem with the film festival, which is a much more established global occasion, dating back to 1993. Organizers at the TV festival tell THR that they are proceeding as if the event will kick-off Aug. 3, but they are uncertain whether it actually will be held if regulators balk on allowing the film festival to screen movies for the public. 

Should the film festival go forward this month, the extent to which it will be truly "international" also remains to be seen. Some air service routes in and out of China have begun to resume, but the government in Beijing has maintained a bar on nearly all incoming foreign travelers.

News of the Shanghai festival's prospective dates circulated quickly through the Chinese film industry this week, sparking optimism that the country's vast network of cinemas might be allowed to resume operation this month too.

Chinese theaters have been shuttered since late January, months longer than most major film markets around the world. The ongoing business suspension has deeply damaged the country's movie sector, with reports of hundreds, possibly even thousands, of film companies going out of business. In early May, China's State Council, a top administrative body, said that indoor entertainment venues could resume operation, but a flare-up of COVID cases in June has delayed the implementation of the restart. 

Total box office in China for the first half of 2020 was $311 million (RMB 2.2 billion), down 93 percent from the $4.4 billion (RMB 31.2 billion) total during the same period in 2019.