Spoilers can take the day off today.
First of all the good news, Montreal’s very own Fantasia International Film Festival will have a 24th edition in 2020. Due to the global pandemic, it will be entirely virtual. As much beloved as the visual experience is, the theatre experience, the crowd and the encounters between filmmakers, actors, fans and film reviewers (just so you know all those categories can potentially overlap) will be absent. The festival is trying to incorporate some degree of the festival experience virtually, “with many screenings being real-time, live events instead of the usual streaming approach.”
It was inevitable that as all festivals, Fantasia would have to adapt to the new normal sweeping across the land. Movie theatres have received quite a blow since all public gatherings have been almost universally banned in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. Other festivals such as Just For Laughs had already gone the digital route. On the other hand, conventions such as Montreal’s ComicCon and the big one, Montreal’s Jazz Festival have been cancelled for this year. Otakuthon is also cancelled and pursuing a “At Home Edition” format.
You’ve also probably heard all the hoopla about Universal after their feature film Trolls World Tour became an unexpected VOD blockbuster. According to The Hollywood Reporter, when NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell reacted to the numbers he also told the Wall Street Journal, “as soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
The backlash came via a letter from AMC Theatres chairman and CEO Adam Aron sent to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley on April 28: “It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East.”
There was an evening statement from Universal sort of backtracking, saying it remains dedicated to moviegoing and that the comments were misconstrued but there are enough disturbances in the Force to know things are changing. AMC is on the verge of bankruptcy. Universal cannot afford to have their movies banned when theatres reopen again, despite not knowing what that would look like – or actually because they don’t know. They should be talking again soon for both of their own sakes.
There is one certainty that everyone knows and that is that nobody is certain of anything. Everything is on pause, everything is on wait. All long-term plans are pushed back, all short-term plans are cancelled and new plans are being concocted carefully and tentatively as we speak. With the economy and a lot of people’s income in jeopardy, the last thing you want to do is commit to an ultimatum.
To everyone in the Fantasia crowd of volunteers, organizers, filmmakers, reviewers and fans, I will not see you this year but thanks for all you do. Hope to see you again sometime in 2021. As for the film themselves, I’m glad we get to chance to see them this year. Que le film comence!
That will do for now.