The postponement follows weeks of speculation as to whether the festival, which attracts thousands of filmmakers, celebrities and executives to the city, could go ahead from May 12-23.
“At this time of a global health crisis, our thoughts go to the victims of the COVID-19 and we express our solidarity with all those fighting the disease,” the statement said.
France is in its third day of closure with the aim of containing the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly 11,000 cases have now been officially diagnosed and 372 people have died.
Organizers, who had announced US director Spike Lee as president of the jury this year, said several new dates are being considered, including late June-early July.
Woman walks past footage from Cannes Film festival on the Croisette in Cannes as lockdown is forced to slow the rate of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, March 18, 2020. REUTERS
This is not the first time the festival has been postponed. Its opening event in 1939 was cut short after the opening screening of “Hunchback of Notre Dame” due to the German invasion of Poland the following day. The awards were eventually awarded in 2002.
He was also interrupted in May 1968 amid student protests and labor sweeping across France.
The announcement is another blow to the film industry. Beyond the star-studded screenings, production and distribution companies are heading to the Cote d’Azur to finalize deals, while executives from around the world gather to represent their nations film industries.
According to the US entertainment industry union IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Workers) some 120,000 people have already lost their jobs in Hollywood as a result of the outbreak.
The Cannes Festival is the latest in the entertainment industry to be delayed or canceled. The New York Tribeca Film Festival premiered earlier this month along with the release of big-budget films including “Mulan” and James Bond’s latest film “No Time to Die”.
The Glastonbury and Coachella music festivals have been canceled and theaters in London and on Broadway have closed.
“As soon as the development of the French and international health situation allows us to assess the true possibility, we will make our decision known,” Cannes organizers said.