The Sydney Film Festival, set to have taken place in June in Australia’s most populous city, has been canceled. Festival organizers called the move a “responsible decision – albeit a devastating one.”

The festival had been planned to take place June 3-14, 2020. But upheaval became inevitable after the state of New South Wales issued an order banning large gatherings until mid-June, as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Organizers did not offer an alternative date later this year. Instead they said that the SFF will return in 2021 “with a more crucial role than ever before.”

As of Wednesday, Australia has 557 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 266 of them in New South Wales. That includes 57 new cases and one death reported earlier in the day.

“It is with deep regret that, for the first time in its history, the Sydney Film Festival board and management must announce the cancellation of this year’s festival,” said festival director Nashen Moodley, in a letter emailed to the industry. “The decision to cancel this year’s Sydney Film Festival follows a review of the most up to date advice regarding ways to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus, and the New South Wales Public Health (COVID-19 Public Events) order banning events of 500 people, which is in place until 14 June. In this rapidly evolving and unknown environment, the SFF board and management know this is the only responsible decision – albeit a devastating one. However, the health and safety of our community is our first concern.”

The festival said that it will contact 2020 ticket holders to offer 2021 replacements or to process returns.
“In the coming months we will also be looking at opportunities to continue to celebrate film and filmmakers,” Moodley added.