Omicron and COVID Impact Award Season, Film Events


Rising cases around the world are leading to a cascade of canceled events, raising concerns about the viability of major film events slated for early 2022.

More than two weeks before the events were scheduled, the organizers of the Palm Springs Film Awards and the BAFTA Tea Party canceled their events on Monday. The American Film Institute, meanwhile, has postponed its annual AFI Awards luncheon to a later date. The cancellations, coupled with others over the past week, raise concerns about whether the pandemic outbreak will wipe out other events expected in the weeks to come.

For months, the industry seemed to be walking towards a version of normal not seen since the start of the pandemic. But that only changed last week, as the spread of the Omicron variant and a growing number of global cases resulted in the postponement of the LA premiere of “Cyrano,” while the producers of “Saturday Night Live” have rotated at the last minute. to a clean show without an audience (and without the musical guest Charli XCX, who also bowed out). Meanwhile, CNN, Lionsgate and Starz have closed their offices, and Broadway shows including “Hamilton” turned dark until after Christmas.

It comes as New York state recorded the highest number of daily cases on Sunday since the start of the pandemic, marking the third day in a row for such a record. In LA County, the number of daily cases on Sunday doubled from a few days earlier.

Much of the increase in cases across the country is attributed to the Delta variant, but the Omicron variant has been identified in 45 states so far. Early data suggests the variant may be more infectious than earlier strains and is on track to become the most common variant in the United States

President Joe Biden plans to address the country on Tuesday about the virus, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, noting that it was “not a shutdown speech of the country “and that the virus” is not the same threat to being fully vaccinated individuals as it was in March 2020. “

However, the recent trend to cancel events that include large gatherings of people is reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic. There will be no live audiences for the New Years celebration in downtown LA, which organizers announced on Monday will switch to streaming only. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would have an update this week on the Times Square celebration.

The Palm Springs Gala attracts stars and thousands more each year and is closely watched thanks to its track record of predicting Oscar nominees. While the ceremony has been canceled for the second year in a row, the awards will be presented in partnership with Entertainment Tonight, with details to follow, the Palm Springs International Film Society said in a statement.

The AFI Awards lunch scheduled for January 7 will be postponed to another date, while the BAFTA Tea Party scheduled for January 8 has been canceled. Both are LA events.

All three events were scheduled to take place a few days before the Critics Choice Awards ceremony on January 9. The Critics Choice Association has not announced any changes to the scheduled event. A representative of the group did not respond to a request for comment.

The biggest event likely to be affected by the increase in cases is the Sundance Film Festival, which features a hybrid in-person and online festival starting January 20.

Last year’s festival was largely online-only and widely regarded as a success: it hosted the largest audiences ever at Sundance, achieved the record-breaking “CODA” sale, and released major films like ” Flee ”and“ Summer of Soul ”. That said, many in the industry have been eagerly anticipating returning to Park City in January for a more complete in-person experience.

Sundance has not announced any changes to its plans for the festival, which will run until January 30. But the structure of this year’s festival means that the organizers are ready for anything. Public ticket packages and press and industry passes all include access to online screenings, and Sundance is bringing back its satellite screen program in partnership with artists and essays across the country.

“Wherever you are, we can host whatever the next few months have in store for us and still have the festival,” festival director Tabitha Jackson told IndieWire earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Sundance planned to require all festival-goers to be fully vaccinated and provide a negative test result within 48 hours of recording. Additionally, employees, filmmakers, and members of the press and industry will be required to provide a negative test. every 48 hours for the duration of the festival. Masks will be mandatory inside. Sundance did not respond to a request for comment.

The Berlin International Film Festival, which kicks off on February 10, is also coming up. Variety reported that the organizers work on contingency plans in case the pandemic situation requires a change of plans.

For a full view of what’s happening this Awards Season, check out the IndieWire Awards Calendar here.

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