First Cannes and now Telluride. The Telluride Film Festival informed pass holders that 2020 edition of the festival has been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The event was set to take place with an extra day of screenings beginning Sept. 3.

The writing was on the wall when the Telluride School District informed the organizers last week that they would not be allowed to use two major venues for the festival. While the festival uses other theaters in the town and surrounding area it appears to have created an inevitable break in the small Colorado enclave. The festival markedly noted in its release, “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.” It does not appear the residents or elected figures in Telluride wanted to take that chance.

What happens next for Telluride is somewhat unclear. They will move forward with plans for a 2021 edition and, like Cannes, announce their 2020 selections soon. The festival noted, “We hope you 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.”

Massively influential for cinephiles and Academy members, Telluride has been a mainstay of the fall festival circuit for 46 previous editions. Nine of the last 12 Best Picture winners have screened at Telluride. “Moonlight,” “Argo” and “12 Years A Slave” all had their world premieres at the festival.

Here’s the statement sent to pass holders:

“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!

As of this date, the 2020 editions of the Venice, Toronto and New York Film Festivals are still moving forward with a combination of in-person and virtual screenings planned.