Palm Springs International Film Awards canceled due to rise in COVID cases; festival still on
The Palm Springs International Film Awards has been canceled by event organizers due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant. The awards ceremony was expected to take place in person on Jan. 6, 2022, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
Stars who were expected to attend the ceremony included directors Jane Campion and Kenneth Branagh, actors Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Andrew Garfield, Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz and the casts of "King Richard" and "Belfast."
"We are taking this action due to the recent spike in COVID cases and out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of the honorees, patrons, and staff," said a statement from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. "The Palm Springs Film Awards are one of the largest events in the film world with 2500 guests and more than 1,000 staff in the room."
The Palm Springs International Film Festival is still scheduled to run through Jan. 17. Passholders are required to show proof of full vaccination, photo ID and sign a waiver to enter venues and events, which also applied to the film awards ceremony. Attendees also will be required to wear masks, according to the festival, as California recently reinstated its mask mandate at indoor public spaces. The policy is extended to volunteers, staff, guests, sponsors, media and vendors. The full policy is available at psfilmfest.org
The 2021 festival and film awards were canceled last November due to the pandemic. In February, media partner "Entertainment Tonight" highlighted all the individual honorees that included Riz Ahmed, Viola Davis, Carey Mulligan Leslie Odom, Jr., and more.
The film awards will partner with "Entertainment Tonight" again to honor this year's winners, according to a statement. Those who purchased tickets for the film awards will be reimbursed.
"We hope to return the Film Awards to an in-person event in 2023," the statement read.
Also canceled are the five "Talking Pictures" events that were scheduled for Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, which featured a screening followed by a conversation with the star of the movie.
The planned screenings were "Spencer" with Kristen Stewart in attendance, "Respect" with Jennifer Hudson in attendance, "The Power of the Dog" with Jane Campion in attendance, "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" with Andrew Garfield in attendance, and the recently added "House of Gucci" with Lady Gaga in attendance.
According to the festival website: Refunds for all tickets purchased and pass reservations will be processed in the coming days.
Additionally, Variety's "10 Directors to Watch" event, and a reception following the opening night screening of the documentary "Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over," both scheduled for Jan. 7, have been canceled. All tickets purchased for the screening and reception, which was scheduled for the Palm Springs Air Museum, at $75 will be refunded in full. Tickets for the screening only are available now at $15 each and may be purchased online at https://www.psfilmfest.org/.
Two other "Talking Pictures" events that were not tied to stars attending the Awards show are still scheduled. Those are "The Tender Bar" on Jan. 9 with screenwriter William Monahan in attendance, and "Jockey" with actors Clifton Collins Jr. and Molly Parker in attendance.
The last in-person film awards ceremony was in 2020 and honorees included director Martin Scorsese and actors Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, Jennifer Lopez and Charlize Theron. A crowd of about 500 fans, hoping for autographs or selfies, typically gathers at the entrance of the Palm Springs Convention Center to greet stars as they walk the red carpet. That tradition was not expected to be part of the 2022 ceremony.
The Palm Springs event typically boasts prime position on the festival circuit calendar, held the first week in January to precede the Golden Globe Awards and the Oscar nominations voting deadline.
Omicron, rising COVID cases loom over 2022 events
The first case of the omicron variant in Riverside County was confirmed Dec. 17 by local health officials. Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said it was "likely the variant would eventually arrive in Riverside County, so this is no surprise or cause for widespread concern.” A Palm Springs wastewater sample from Dec. 7 also detected the presence of the omicron variant.
This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on Nov. 11 in Botswana and on Nov. 14 in South Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The omicron variant multiplies 70 times faster in the human bronchial tubes than the initial COVID-19 infection or the delta variant, according to a new study from the University of Hong Kong. As of Dec. 15, there have been 49 cases of the variant reported in California.
The New Year’s Eve party planned for downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Park will not have an in-person audience due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in LA County, organizers also announced on Monday. Instead, “NYELA Countdown to 2022” will be streamed, as it was last year.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported more than 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as the number of daily new cases tripled over the week.
Other events that were canceled last year and still scheduled to return in 2022 include Modernism Week in Palm Springs on Feb. 17-27, BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 7-20 and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach country music festival in April at the Empire Polo Club in Indio.
Associated Press, USA Today and Desert Sun staff contributed to this report. Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye. Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic. Support local news, subscribe to The Desert Sun.