2020 Telluride Film Festival Canceled

"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."
Paul Best/Getty Images

The 2020 edition of the Telluride Film Festival has been canceled because of the pandemic.

Oscar season usually launches over Labor Day weekend with the fest in the Colorado Rockies, but this year, with COVID-19 raging, not to mention the Academy Awards already having been pushed back to April 25, it has become untenable.

Festival organizers said in a statement Tuesday that their "heartbreaking but unanimous" decision came after "months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event." They also indicated that they had a "very good plan" to move forward "until the past week or so," when key pieces of the puzzle began to fall apart. (On July 9, the Telluride News indicated that local officials were forbidding the use of two key festival venues, the Palm and Galaxy theaters, which are housed in a local school.)

Since the festival's first edition in 1974, it was only once previously in jeopardy of not happening, back in 1993. That year, it was boycotted by some after voters in Colorado passed a measure "forbidding the enactment of any laws protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination," as it was described at the time in the Los Angeles Times — but it did still take place.

Below is a statement from the festival organizers.

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. 

While there will be those who might say they’re not surprised by it, that this was inevitable, we beg to differ. It didn’t have to be this way. Until the past week or so, we had a very good plan to put on the SHOW safely. 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. No matter how much many of us wear our masks and observe social distancing protocols, the pandemic has worsened rather than improved and the health and safety of you - our passholders, filmmakers, the people of Telluride and its surrounding areas - cannot be compromised. 

As you may know, we have been working cooperatively with our fellow fall film festival partners to champion global cinema and its artists. We hope that many of you will seek out and discover the titles we’ve selected for this year’s program at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice Film Festival, or when they’re made available on a wider basis. We will announce soon what we have carefully programmed in the hopes that you will experience as we did, the best in film this year. There are some incredible, powerful, and beautiful gems and we’re excited to extol their virtues when the time is right. Follow these titles, support them. We intend to champion them outside of the festival as best we can. 

For those who have supported us and believe in what we are trying to do, our gratitude is enormous. Thank you. We will need you in the coming months in many ways. Let’s light candles now to conjure a better 2021 and Labor Day weekend in Telluride, together, under the stars in the mountains doing what many of us love the most. The way we prefer to experience cinema will return. Let’s make it so. 

We wish you good health, peace and may we collectively move forward to a better world. 

We understand that film festivals and their long-term health are not top of mind today. A safe vaccine, vital medical interventions for those sick and properly enforced health regulations are. However, we do ask that you take this moment to consider a world where gathering around a shared love of culture is no longer possible and what that means for the psychological condition of the world. If the prospect prompts a sense of despair, please advocate and champion the return of our gatherings that provide vital nourishment and oxygen to humanity's soul, at the appropriate time, of course!

We will follow up with information and options regarding passes in a separate email.