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Cleveland International Film Festival Canceled Over Health Concerns

photo of Tower City
This was to be the film fest's final year at Tower City before moving to Playhouse Square.

The 44th Cleveland International Film Festival has been canceled according to a statement issued today:

"While we are saddened that our film loving audience will not have the opportunity to experience CIFF44’s amazing films and talented filmmakers, we understand the City’s obligation to protect the health and safety of all residents. We regret not having the opportunity to celebrate our three decades at Tower City Center. But we look forward to presenting CIFF45, April 7-18, 2021, at our new and permanent home in Playhouse Square.

This is a difficult situation for all involved. We are grateful for your understanding, loyalty, and continued support during this challenging time."

The film fest is slated to move next year from its longtime home at Tower City to Playhouse Square.

The 1989 film fest opened with “Major League.” That was the first time the festival screened a movie at Playhouse Square. It’s returned for four of the past five years. Starting next year, the entire festival will take place in the theatre district.

Executive Director Marcie Goodman says their capacity will increase significantly since they’ll be using multiple spaces at Playhouse Square.

“They range from the intimate to the grand. That is the really good thing about moving to Playhouse Square is, a lot of our capacity worries will go away.”

The move also provides more stability given the possible redevelopment plans for Tower City.

“Think back to way back when, ‘Oh, the Rock Hall was going to be built there. And then the Medical Mart was going to be built there. And who knows where the casino was going to go? And so the landlords throughout most of our 30 years there – who are wonderful – they were just not able to commit to us for more than one year at a time.”

Tower City is now slated to be redeveloped as a tech hub. The 11-screen cinema has a total of 2,800 seats. The largest venues in Playhouse Square match that: the State has more than 3,100 seats while the Connor Palace has more than 2,700.

The first Cleveland International Film Fest took place in 1977 at the Cedar Lee Theatre and moved to Tower City in 1991. Today, both are owned by Cleveland Cinemas.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.