Hong Kong FilMart, Asia’s largest film and TV trade fair, will be postponed from its scheduled date in March to a new slot in August. The decision was a response to the growing fear of the novel coronavirus which has spread from mainland China to reach more than 20 countries and territories so far.
The fair’s organizer, semi-government body, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, made the announcement on Thursday. The market will be cut from four days to three, and be held Aug 27-29.
“The safety and well-being of our exhibitors and participants has always been our priority. The decision is made in response to the preventive measures taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government and health authorities worldwide to contain the novel coronavirus epidemic,” the HKTDC said in an email to registered participants.
Earlier, on Thursday, mainland Chinese authorities confirmed a spike in coronavirus cases. There are now more than 48,000 cases of virus infection, and 1,350 deaths to date.
The disease has killed two others, one in The Philippines, one in Hong Kong. The number of confirmed infections in Hong Kong, however remains relatively low, at 50, with one patient declared as recovered.
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With many workplaces in the territory advising staff to stay at home, the city experiencing panic buying of face masks, toilet paper and basic foodstuffs, and schools closed until March 16, the March dates for FilMart seemed increasingly untenable.
Hong Kong now also requires a two week mandatory quarantine for all incoming visitors from mainland China and is refusing entry to Chinese visitors whose visas allow less than 14 days stay. The 24th edition was scheduled to have been held March 25-28, at the TDC-managed Convention and Exhibition Center in Wanchai district.
Following Hong Kong’s return to work after the Chinese New Year holidays, the TDC is understood to have held several management meetings over the past two weeks to discuss options for FilMart. Much of their focus was on identifying venue availability at other times of year.
On Monday, the month-long Hong Kong Arts Festival, due to have been held Feb. 13-March 14 announced its cancellation.
Three days earlier, on Friday, Art Basel Hong Kong, the massive fine art festival that was due to have been held March 19-21 at venues including the Convention Centre, was cancelled. No alternative dates were announced.
“Numerous factors informed (the Art Basel) decision, including fundamental concern for the health and safety of all those working at and attending the fair; the severe logistical challenges facing the build-out and transit of artwork to the show; and the escalating difficulties complicating international travel, all arising as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus,” said Art Basel organizer MCH in an email.
The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, one of the world’s top rugby tournaments, will be postponed from its early April slot, until an unspecified date in October, organizers said on Thursday.
The Hong Kong International Film Festival currently remains on schedule to be held in mid-March, but it is under review. A delay of the festival and the HAF project market until August is the most likely scenario.
Last year’s FilMart had 888 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions, and more than 9,000 visitors from 52 territories. That makes it the third most attended film market of the year behind Cannes and the American Film Market.
There have been question marks for many months over the 2020 edition of FilMart. From October onward, street violence and political turmoil, had scared numerous other cultural entertainment and industry events into cancelation or postponement. The RISE tech convention, also set for March at the Convention Centre, was cancelled in November, due to fear about the political protests.
The TDC had previously been able to offer the reassurance that FilMart was still expecting a significant number of mainland Chinese exhibitors and executives to take part. But as travel restrictions are increased to protect against the virus, that scenario became an increasingly forlorn hope.
On Monday last week, the Hong Kong government announced the closure of nearly all land border points between Hong Kong and mainland China. On Tuesday last week, leading local airline Cathay Pacific announced that it would reduce its global capacity by 30% and slash connections to mainland China by 90%.