Cannes film festival officially delayed from May until July

Cannes 2021 just got hotter. The annual film festival, which prides itself on launching the premieres – and careers – of some of the world’s top directors, will now take place at the height of summer, following concerns over the Covid pandemic.

The festival had been scheduled to take place from 11-22 May; now it will run from 6-17 July. “As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” explained a press release on Wednesday.

Variety had reported last week that July was the most likely choice, with organisers extremely keen to host a physical edition of the festival after last year’s was called off following a series of postponements.

Holding the event in July would mean that Cannes retains more than a month’s head start on the autumn festivals: Venice, Telluride and Toronto, which begin in late August. The Cannes Lions advertising festival is scheduled to take place as planned in the city’s Palais des Festivals in June.

Local hoteliers were reported to be positive about the change as their hopes of a normal tourist season this year rapidly diminished. The event usually attracts some 200,000 visitors to the Riviera hotspot, generating an estimated 200m euros’ (£176m) worth of economic benefits for the area.

Cannes general delegate Thierry Frémaux had mooted the idea of extending the festival’s length due to the likelihood of a backlog of high-quality films delayed by the pandemic; this appears to have ditched.

After the festival was cancelled in 2020, Frémaux presented a selection of more than 50 films, including Wes Anderson’s as-yet-unreleased The French Dispatch, Pixar animation Soul, which premiered on streaming platform Disney+ in December, and Lovers Rock and Mangrove from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology for the BBC.

Premieres at the 2019 edition included Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pain and Glory, Sorry We Missed You and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

The Sundance film festival begins later this week in a wholly virtual format. The Berlin film festival, which is normally in February, will now take place in two stages: digital only in March and physical in June.