The Tribeca Film Festival, which was born out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was forced to postpone its glitzy screenings and panels this year as a result of New York state banning large public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, Tribeca organizers are hoping to at least unveil some of its programming online. The festival was scheduled to run April 15-26.
Under the new initiative, announced on Friday, some of the independent movies in Tribeca’s competition programming will be available on an online destination – called the Industry Extranet Resource Hub – for journalists and members of the industry. Buyers can still watch these projects and bid on them and other filmmakers can discover emerging talent.
Tribeca’s Cinema360 will release 15 virtual reality films in homes, which consumers can watch on Oculus TV.
The jury prizes for features, shorts and content from advertising brands will still be awarded, voted on by a previously announced group that includes director Danny Boyle and actors Regina Hall and Lucas Hedges.
And Tribeca N.O.W. Creators Market, which pairs showrunners with content providers, will become a virtual gathering space.
The decision to take Tribeca digital came “almost immediately,” said Jane Rosenthal, Tribeca’s co-founder and CEO, who notes that her programmers have already pushed out an initiative called “A Short Film a Day Keeps Anxiety Away,” which allows people to watch shorts from esteemed filmmakers.
It’s possible that other feature-length movies that were supposed to premiere at Tribeca will move to an expanded edition of Tribeca’s TV Festival, which takes place in September. But it’s too early to tell. This has been a difficult few weeks for Tribeca organizers, who had worked year-round to program more than 100 movies and events for 150,000 New Yorkers and tourists.
“It’s disappointing,” Rosenthal said. “And I think for me personally just because we founded the festival after 9/11, you feel like — what more as an industry can we do to help? The fact that you can’t gather, you can’t bring people together, it’s not natural for us as human beings. The activist side of me, the motherly side of me, that wants to hug everybody and say don’t worry, you’ll be okay. You can’t do that.”
Rosenthal, who is in the middle of producing two projects right now, noted just how profoundly Hollywood has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as film and TV productions have shuttered and movie theaters have closed. And all spring film festivals — from South by Southwest to Cannes — have been cancelled.
“You go back to Hollywood and the Great Depression, and the entertainment business has always been recession-proof,” Rosenthal said. “I think everyone is looking at how are they going to pivot. Say if we can be back up in September, and we can start planning for projects, what is the behavior? How do we change in terms of how physically close we are all the time?”
As for the future of movie theaters, “Being in theaters and online could co-exist together,” Rosenthal said. “I think you’re seeing that happen in a swifter way than it was,” she said of Universal Pictures making its latest slate of theatrical films – including “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma” — available for streaming.
Rosenthal has been trying to keep busy during this time of uncertainty. She’s self-isolating in Bridgehampton, N.Y., where she continues to conduct business from her home. “If I’m not on a Zoom call, I’m doing laundry, vacuuming or the dishes,” she said.