Austin’s Fantastic Fest Announces Cancellation For 2020

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Fantastic Fest 2020

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The film festival circuit in 2020 faces another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Austin, TX’s massive genre-festival Fantastic Fest has announced today the cancellation of its 2020 edition in its entirety. The festival was founded in 2005 by Tim League (Alamo Drafthouse), Harry Knowles (Ain’t It Cool News), and Tim McCanlies (writer of The Iron Giant and others). This would have been the 16th iteration, and the festival was originally slated from September 24th through October 1st.

While the Festival is cancelled rather than moved online, they have announced an intent to schedule online gatherings spanning the initially scheduled dates. In a statement:

“We’re currently in the lab working on a program of fun online gatherings and events for that celebration. Our goal will be to have a virtual event every night from September 24th through October 1st – shorts programs, 100 Best Kills, secret screenings, an online Fantastic Feud, other fun surprises, and a look back at some amazing films from Fantastic Fest history – for us all to interact and reunite. We aren’t ready to announce all the details, but we’ll be in touch in the weeks ahead.”

Fantastic Fest is an influential and large festival for genre films (horror, science fiction, fantasy, et al). Last year the festival hosted the U.S. premiere of Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit. Prior years of the festival have seen the premieres of films from many notable directors, such as the U.S. premiere of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host (2006); the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007); and the North American premiere of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria (2018) among many others.

Film festivals have had a wide variety of responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival has shifted to going digital. Earlier, SXSW partnered with Amazon for a free digital festival, while YouTube hosted a free virtual festival in a wide-ranging partnership with 20 festivals (including the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and more).

The 16th Fantastic Fest has currently been rescheduled for September 24-30, 2021. Badge holders will be reached out to by the end of the week.

Excerpts from the announcement below (and full statement here):

Today, with a heavy heart, we must announce that this year’s Fantastic Fest has been canceled. We are beginning the process of refunding filmmaker submission fees and offering refunds to badge holders.

Up until just a couple of weeks ago, the Fantastic Fest team had been diligently poring over screeners and considering movies from the Cannes Film Market. While we knew it wouldn’t be the same as pre-COVID fests, we were clinging to the hope that the trajectory of the virus would improve and we would be able to execute some manner of safe, socially-distanced, film festival at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

While the interactions that happen between, before and after films, interactions that make the festival “Fantastic” simply cannot be recreated through Zoom, and we therefore don’t believe a “virtual film festival” would capture the spirit of Fantastic Fest, we do still want to gather the Fantastic Fest community on our regular dates for an online event, a “Celebration of Fantastic Fest,” to reconnect and share an online experience.

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