SIFF cancels 2020 Festival amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In the category of “shocking yet not surprising”, the Seattle International Film Festival cancelled the entirety of its 2020 festival amid concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled to run from mid-May to early-June, this would have been the organization’s 46th annual marathon of cinema. Given uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, an organization running on a severely diminished staff after massive staff furloughs in the wake of their theater closures, and considering sensitivity to public health recommendations, organizers realized that planning for a large scale event that brings hundreds of filmmakers, guests, and filmgoers into town simply wasn’t feasible.

Although the decision is understandable, all of us at the Sunbreak are deeply saddened by this news. It’s difficult for us to imagine springtime in Seattle without the films, conversation in lines, and camaraderie that the festival brought to the city each year. SIFF asks that patrons consider already-purchased passes donations and we hope that you’ll continue to support local film organizations (including direct donations to SIFF and/or contributions to a GoFundMe campaign for furloughed employees) and cinemas so that they can come roaring back when its safe to do so.

Full SIFF press release below:

Seattle — March 18— It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of the 46th Seattle International Film Festival, scheduled to run May 14 to June 7, 2020. SIFF is committed to being a part of the solution to help slow down the recent spike in numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state and across the country, and we remain committed to the safety of audiences, staff, and the community at large. This, in addition to Monday’s announcement by Governor Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine further expanding social gathering limits, which now prohibit all events of 50 or larger statewide until further notice, led to this difficult decision. For our patrons who have already purchased passes or ticket packs to SIFF 2020, please consider making your purchase a donation to SIFF. If you’d like to consider other options, please submit your request via this form or email for next steps.We did not make this decision lightly. The Seattle International Film Festival is the largest film festival in North America, showcasing more than 400 films from more than 85 countries to 140,000+ attendees over 25 days. While the core of the Festival takes place mid-May into early June, pre-events and activities begin up to six weeks earlier. The looming uncertainty of this crisis, and the huge amount of work that would have to be done now, makes it impossible to continue as scheduled. In addition to not being able to bring on nearly 100 seasonal workers, as well as previously announced cinema staff furloughs, we are placed in the untenable position of furloughing the majority of our staff. SIFF will be on hiatus for the next few months while the board and a minimal leadership crew, working reduced hours, regroup. This is hitting SIFF at our most vulnerable time. So much of our funding comes in through festival, and we are losing that to the COVID-19 response at a point when we have already started spending on fixed costs for the festival. When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we won’t be able to flip a switch and start back up with business as usual. We must pivot our current circumstances into an opportunity to innovate and reimagine a stronger, more sustainable and exciting future for SIFF and activate the philanthropic community to help us. The day will come when we gather again to share great films, community, and experiences. Please consider supporting SIFF with a donation. Donate here.