No Hugs, Masked Mugs and More Movies: A Guide to Cannes Under COVID Protocols

TheWrap magazine: It’ll be a Cannes Film Festival like no other — here are the reasons why

Thierry Fremaux masked Cannes
Cannes General Delegate Thierry Fremaux on the red carpet in October 2020 / Getty Images

This story about the Cannes Film Festival first appeared in TheWrap’s special digital Cannes magazine.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival, which begins on Tuesday, takes place in July, not May, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting everything. Here are some of the ways in which the 2021 Cannes will be unlike any of the 73 festivals that preceded it.  

Fewer people
The festival and the Marche du Film market have estimated that 20,000 people will attend this year’s festival, about half the number who normally attend.

Cannes beaches / Getty Images

More people
Unlike the festival’s usual mid-May slot, July is peak season for tourists in the south of France. That means the people there to see movies and make deals will be competing with people there to hang out on the beach and relax.

More films
After averaging 20 films per year over the past decade, the Main Competition consists of 24 films, the most it’s had since 1974. And when you throw in the addition of two new sections, Cannes Premiere and Cinema for the Climate, 2021’s total of 82 films in the official selection is far above the 57 that the festival has averaged. And that doesn’t even count the seven new cinema documentaries that will play alongside 24 restored films in the Cannes Classics section.

Artist’s rendering of the Cineum multiplex / Cineum

More theaters
A new multiplex called the Cineum is opening in Cannes this summer, and the festival will use four of its 12 screens. Unlike other Cannes theaters, it is not inside the Palais or within walking distance; according to organizers, it’s a 15-minute car ride away. (Are they factoring in festival traffic?)

Vaccination and testing
To enter the Palais du Festivals, people will need the usual festival credential, but also a certificate showing that they are fully vaccinated; or proof of positive antibodies dated no more than six months or less than 15 days ago; or a negative PCR test taken within the last 48 hours. The appropriate documents should be presented in the form of a QR code that can be downloaded to the app TousAntiCovid, though it may not be accessible to U.S. visitors. Unvaccinated attendees will need to take new tests every 48 hours to stay current. 

Onsite testing
A testing lab will be set up near the Palais, with free testing available to all festival participants. Booking will be done online to reduce waiting times, with results emailed within six hours of the test.  Rapid PCR tests, with results available in 30 minutes, will be available for €50 (about $60).

Although theaters will be able to fill to 100% capacity, masks will be required during all screenings. According to French government guidelines, those masks must be “a standard-issued (or surgical) mask, in excellent condition, with a filtration rate of over 90%.”

Fans outside the Palais / Getty Images

No mass of fans around the Palais
The fan zone in the front of the Palais, which is traditionally jam-packed before premiere screenings, will be eliminated unless French rules change. A smaller fan zone will be established.

Higher costs
For the first time, each credentialed festivalgoer will be required to donate $25 as part of a plan to reduce Cannes’ environmental footprint.

Online bookings
In an effort to shorten lines, a new online system will be instituted to give ticketholders a specific time to show up for screenings.

Longer lines
The lines that do exist will be “redesigned to ensure social distancing,” with patrons required to stay one meter apart.

Reconfigured spaces
Additional entrances and exits will be added, while existing ones will be modified to reduce cross traffic. Customer service areas will be redesigned. Hand-sanitizing stations will be installed.

Digital scanning stations
These are designed to cut down on bag searches.

No hugging
In a “Health and Safety Protocols” email sent to credentialed festivalgoers, Cannes organizers included a list of hygienic protocols that included frequent hand-washing and this: “Greet each other without physical contact. (Yes, this means no handshakes and hugs. Get creative!)”  

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” party in Cannes, 2019 / Getty Images

More restrictive post-screening parties
Sit-down dining is permitted in all establishments, but stand-up dining is permitted only outside or under tents. And according to French government rules, “Dishes or plates resulting in the mixing of food between more than one guest is not permitted.”

Spike Lee in Cannes / Cannes Film Festival

Here’s a big change that has nothing to do with COVID. Fourteen months after he was supposed to serve as president of the Cannes jury for the 2020 festival, which was subsequently canceled, Spike Lee will finally assume that role for the 2021 edition—and he’ll become the first Black jury president in Cannes history. He’s also the first jury president to have his picture on the official Cannes poster (although when Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai was president in 2006, the poster featured a still from his 2000 movie “In the Mood for Love”).

Read more from the digital Cannes magazine here.

TheWrap Cannes issue cover
Photo credit: TheWrap


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