If all goes as planned, the Lumière Film Festival will kick off this month in Lyon, France, to again celebrate classic cinema and fete such guests as Viggo Mortensen and Oliver Stone.

This year’s edition, which runs Oct. 10-18, is taking place under strict health and safety measures, including limiting public gatherings to a maximum of 1,000 people. Due to recent spikes in cases and hospitalizations, restrictions have been changing around the country, making the festival’s organization more complicated.

While COVID-19 continues to cast its shadow over industry gatherings, growing opportunities for heritage film under the pandemic is sure to be a major topic of discussion at the fest’s Intl.
Classic Film Market (MIFC).

Headed by Bertrand Tavernier, Institut Lumière president, and Cannes topper Thierry Frémaux, Institut Lumière director, the fest is one of the world’s premier events showcasing heritage cinema and film restoration.

This year the event is paying tribute to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with the Lumière Award for lifetime achievement. Stone will present his new autobiography, “Chasing the Light,” and a newly restored version of 1989’s “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Mortensen and fellow guest of honor Thomas Vinterberg will be on hand for Lumière’s Cannes Official Selection 2020 premieres, which will include their respective works, “Falling” and “Another Round.”

Among this year’s other premieres are Pixar’s “Soul” and 14 restored prints that include Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cary Grant starrer “People Will Talk” (1951); George A. Romero’s long-lost 1973 pic “The Amusement Park”; Robin Hardy’s 1973 horror classic “The Wicker Man”; Peter Weir’s 1975 “Picnic at Hang-ing Rock”; and David Cronenberg’s “The Brood” (1979).

Despite the health precautions, interest remains high among festgoers and industry reps, with tickets selling briskly and MIFC accreditations, while down 20% this year, at the same level as 2018.

Nevertheless, while hopeful that all goes as planned, organizers are prepared for a worst-case scenario in view of the fast-changing situation.

“We have to take into consideration that something might happen, so we have that in mind and we are trying to organize it the best way we can,” says MIFC program coordinator Gérald Duchaussoy.

Market panels and presentations will be accessible online to accredited participants, but organizers are planning to move the entire event into the virtual sphere if it becomes necessary.

“It’s on everyone’s mind at the moment, the confinement, the repercussions for theaters, TV and the platforms,” Duchaussoy states. “The situation is boiling at the moment, especially for cinemas and for heritage films.”

While opportunities for heritage film in the time of corona are not exactly on the agenda, they are certain to be discussed. Cinemas around the world have been struggling due to the pandemic and the dearth of new pics, resulting in fresh opportunities and audiences for classic catalog titles.

Following lockdowns in Europe, Studiocanal released 4K restorations of David Lynch’s 1980 “The Elephant Man” and Volker Schlöndorff’s 1979 Oscar-winner “The Tin Drum” in French and German theaters, while a restored edition of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 epic “The Last Emperor” became Taiwan’s highest-grossing film in June.

Further opportunities for European catalog titles may arise from an expected European Commission directive that could require streaming platforms to have a 30% share of European works in their catalogs — one of this year’s main topics in Lyon.

The MIFC opens Oct. 13 with a keynote from Nathanaël Karmitz, chairman of French film group MK2, who is expected to discuss business strategies, heritage policy and the company’s current projects, including a new Claude Chabrol collection restored in 4K.

In April, MK2 sold a classic film package to Netflix that included works by François Truffaut and Charlie Chaplin. The company also launched its MK2 Curiosity service during the “national confinement” with free access to five or six catalog films every week and it has now become a long-term project.

Another focus will be Portugal. This year’s guest country is a good representation of what is happening in Europe, Duchaussoy says. The Portuguese Cinematheque has agreements with rights holders and distributors, organizes events, promotes Portuguese cinema at festivals, digitizes and restores films and has also launched a platform during the lockdown with pics from its archive, he points out.

Representatives from the Portuguese Cinematheque, Lisbon-based distrib Midas Filmes, streaming platform Filmin and pubcaster RTP Memória will take part in round-table discussions.