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Shanghai International Film Festival file photo Image Credit: Courtesy of SIFF

China’s most prestigious film festival, the Shanghai International Film Festival has officially been cancelled for this year. The festival is normally held in mid-June.

The 25th edition of the festival will instead be held next year, in 2023, reports Variety.

The decision to cancel this year’s festival outright is a sign of the continuing difficulties under which the film industry is currently operating in China.

In 2020, the festival moved its dates from June to August, after cinemas endured a five-and-a-half-month period of closure running from late January to early July. In 2021, organisers considered moving the festival to July, but in the end went ahead with it in its normal June slot, albeit with the country operating under significant travel restrictions.

These involved two-week quarantine periods paid for at travelers’ own expense and potentially intrusive virus testing regimes.

The Shanghai festival organisers say they will try to put on film events in the second half of this year, should conditions permit.

“Due to the impact of the new coronavirus epidemic, the Shanghai International Film Festival Organizing Committee has decided that the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival originally scheduled to be held in June 2022 will be postponed to next year,” organisers said in a statement. “We would hereby like to express our heartfelt thanks and sincere apologies to people from all walks of life who care and support the Shanghai International Film Festival. If conditions permit, we will plan and hold relevant film festivals and themed events in the second half of this year to share the pleasant experience brought by film art and film activities.”

The Chinese economy was quick to bounce back from the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and in both 2020 and 2012 China overtook North America to become the world’s largest box office market.

But, with the arrival of the delta variant of COVID-19, Shanghai, China’s biggest city and its economic capital, was put into a tough lockdown that began in April.

The city was officially only allowed to reopen on June 1, 2022 but, significantly, cinemas were not part of the first wave of reopening. And the city’s health authorities have reported a rebound in case numbers since last week’s reopening.

Reopening has continued in other major cities including parts of Beijing and Shenzhen.

Beijing cinemas are to be allowed to reopen at 75 per cent capacity to fully-vaccinated patrons from today.