Berlin Film Festival Goes Virtual in March 2021, with Physical Event Planned for Summer

The 2021 Berlin Film Festival is officially moving to a virtual format for March 1-5. Those dates are when the lineup will be presented to industry members, alongside the virtual European Film Market. Variety reported the shift today. The festival had been scheduled to take place in-person February 11-21, with the 2021 European Film Market running alongside it with a hybrid virtual and physical edition. The EFM will now be a total virtual experience. The plan is for a physical edition of the festival to then take place for the public to enjoy in June.

Similar to most of the world, Covid-19 numbers in Germany have been skyrocketing this winter. Movie theaters in Germany are closed until January 10 at the earliest. Germany announced 662 Covid-19-related deaths on Tuesday, December 8, a then record for the country.

Throughout the fall, organizers for the Berlin Film Festival remained hopeful the 2021 edition could take place with an in-person event. News hit in November that Berlinale 2021 would feature a reduced lineup to prevent overcrowding, but organizers said at the time the festival “still had plans to take place as a physical event in February” and that it was “too early to consider cancellation.”

Ahead of confirmation the 2021 festival is going virtual, Berlinale organizers told Deadline, “The Berlinale has been observing the COVID-19 situation carefully. We are currently testing the feasibility of the festival in February, as well as alternative options. Further information on the planning of the Berlinale 2021 will follow asap.”

Covid-19 has disrupted the international festival circuit for almost a year now. The 2020 Berlin Film Festival remains the last major film festival to run under normal conditions. The pandemic canceled the SXSW Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival (an official lineup was still announced), while Tribeca screened select films in a virtual format. While Telluride was also canceled, fellow top fall festivals such as TIFF and NYFF adopted a hybrid in-person and virtual format. Only the Venice Film Festival mounted an exclusive in-person event this year, although strict safety guidelines were put into effect and the lineup featured a reduced number of films.

Earlier this month, organizers for the Sundance Film Festival announced a virtual festival for the annual Park City event that will take place over a seven-day period. Per IndieWire: “The entire Sundance 2021 program will be available on festival.sundance.org to pass-holders and ticket buyers across the United States, in addition to some international territories that have yet to be finalized. The festival is also planning at least one physical screening for each film in its lineup, as well as drive-in options in Los Angeles and Park City. More than 25 arthouses around the country, from Alabama to Puerto Rico, will partner with Sundance for screenings and events.”

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