When you want a movie to generate international buzz, you take it to Cannes. The annual film festival in an otherwise sleepy French coastal city has in the past honored such movies as Parasite, Pulp Fiction and Apocalypse Now with its top prize, the Palme d'Or, months before they were nominated for best picture Oscars.
But this year, for the first time since it began, the Cannes Film Festival will be postponed from its opening date of May 12, because of concerns over the coronavirus.
Back in 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and the festival was put off for ten days. The only movie that ended up screening was The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton.
Since the rise of the pandemic, festival organizers have publicly dithered over what to do about this year's event, telling the industry paper Deadline as recently as six days ago they intended to move ahead as planned, if at all possible. But in their statement announcing the postponement Thursday, organizers expressed solidarity with those fighting the disease.
"Several options are considered," the statement said, with the main one being a postponement until later this summer.
"As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known," the statement continued, "in accordance with our ongoing consultation with the French Government and Cannes' City Hall as well as with the Festival's Board Members, Film industry professionals and all the partners of the event."
Heading the festival's jury is widely considered one of the greatest honors in global moviemaking. This year, director Spike Lee was set to be the first black person in the history of Cannes to have done so.