Fantastic Fest 2020 is Canceled, Will Soldier On with Online Gatherings

In a move that proves the COVID-19 pandemic is still surging, the team behind Fantastic Fest officially announced the cancelation of their 2020 event. For the uninitiated, Fantastic Fest is a film festival that takes place in Austin, TX every September. It focuses on horror, fantasy, and sci-fi and draws an international audience. As someone who has attended several times, it’s simply the best festival experience to be had–anywhere.

Like many other festivals and conventions that have canceled their plans for 2020, Fantastic Fest will soldier on with online gatherings. Here’s the full statement, released earlier this week:

Today, with a heavy heart, we must announce that this year’s Fantastic Fest has been canceled. We are beginning the process of refunding filmmaker submission fees and offering refunds to badge holders.

Up until just a couple of weeks ago, the Fantastic Fest team had been diligently poring over screeners and considering movies from the Cannes Film Market. While we knew it wouldn’t be the same as pre-COVID fests, we were clinging to the hope that the trajectory of the virus would improve and we would be able to execute some manner of safe, socially-distanced, film festival at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

While the interactions that happen between, before and after films, interactions that make the festival “Fantastic” simply cannot be recreated through Zoom, and we therefore don’t believe a “virtual film festival” would capture the spirit of Fantastic Fest, we do still want to gather the Fantastic Fest community on our regular dates for an online event, a “Celebration of Fantastic Fest,” to reconnect and share an online experience.

We’re currently in the lab working on a program of fun online gatherings and events for that celebration. Our goal will be to have a virtual event every night from September 24th through October 1st – shorts programs, 100 Best Kills, secret screenings, an online Fantastic Feud, other fun surprises, and a look back at some amazing films from Fantastic Fest history – for us all to interact and reunite. We aren’t ready to announce all the details, but we’ll be in touch in the weeks ahead.

We also want to assure our community that we are committed to returning in 2021 with a proper 16th edition of the festival. It is currently scheduled for September 24-30, 2021. Fantastic Fest is our favorite week of the year, and while we have no favorite week of 2020, we’re taking this time to plan ways of making the 2021 edition the greatest Fantastic Fest ever. Our intent is to deliver an amazing experience when it is safe to gather and socialize again.

Before Friday, we’ll reach out to badge holders via email. For those who are willing, we will roll your badge purchase over to 2021. Rolling over your badge purchase to 2021 is significant to sustaining the festival while we plan for the next installment. However, we fully understand that may not be possible, feasible, or desirable for everyone and will quickly process any requested refunds. Badge holders who choose to roll over to 2021 will be invited to an exclusive special event the night before the festival, and also receive a (similarly exclusive) 2021 Fantastic Fest commemorative gift.

We also acknowledge that the future is obviously uncertain. If the festival still isn’t possible to safely execute by this time next year, we will fully refund all badges that rolled over.

Filmmakers, we are still committed to supporting your films in the ways we can. It is our intent to curate and present a shorts program from the 2020 submissions. We will curate a list of official selection films and make them available to buyers and distributors, and hope to present a few of these selections during the “Celebration of Fantastic Fest” virtual event in September. But this is not the full Fantastic Fest experience, and therefore, we will be fully refunding all film submission fees for all filmmakers. We’ll reach out separately to each of you shortly with details, timing, and process.

We will desperately miss seeing all of you in person this September but look forward to our virtual connection in September and a long and amazing future of thrills, chills, and hugs when the world is ready for such things.

– The Fantastic Fest Team

We’ll keep you posted on Fantatic Fest 2020’s virtual program as details emerge, so stay tuned and check back often.

Are you a fan of Fantastic Fest? Will you be participating in the online gatherings planned for this fall? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.



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