The Cannes Film Festival is often called the second most mediatized event in the world, next to the Olympics. But you wouldn’t know it this year. Cannes kicks off Wednesday night but it’ll be a low-key affair for most of the major and minor Hollywood studios. Because it’s an expensive place to set up shop with talent and teams in tow. I’ve heard estimates that put the cost of a Cannes gala screening and fete from $1.5M to $3M. So the studios think they get more bang for the buck, which is why Universal staged a premiere in London Monday night for Snow White And The Huntsman, or Sony is holding several premieres in a host of territories for Men In Black III. The feeling is that, if talent is available to go to a specific market, a premiere there plus a press day will generate more publicity than a similar event would at the Cannes fest. Then there’s the concern that big movies can get buried in the Cannes cacophony. “It’s over in a day and the next day they’re on to the next thing,” a top studio exec says. Another explains, “There’s so much noise you can’t have a standalone moment.”
A few years back, if a big film’s release date fell anywhere from mid-May to mid-June, is was a safe bet it would pop up as a world premiere at the Palais. That’s changed. Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Amy Pascal was even in France for the Paris premiere of Men In Black III – and then flew to elsewhere in Europe instead of heading to Cannes with the film. Yet in 2006, Pascal and other studio bigwigs famously chartered a Eurostar train to bring the media junket from London to Cannes for The Da Vinci Code. The movie execs still shudder at the experience. “It was a massive international hit as you know. But I can’t say the Cannes Festival experience was one we would be anxious to repeat,” one of the execs recalls.
In 2009, Disney made it snow on the Croisette for Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol. Expect no such extravagance this year. Universal’s Snow White And The Huntsman, Warners Bros’s Rock Of Ages and Magic Mike and The Dark Knight Rises, and Fox’s Prometheus won’t have any kind of promotional Cannes push. Instead there will be a big opening night party after Universal-owned Focus Features premieres Moonrise Kingdom on Wednesday. And DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is the only tentpole to have an official slot at the fest since the toon is set in Europe. Here’s a studio-by-studio look:
DREAMWORKS ANIMATION: The out-of-competition screening brings Jeffrey Katzenberg back to the Palais. So it’ll fall to DreamWorks Animation to bring the Hollywood hype. First thing in the morning on opening day, the global media will get a glimpse at footage from Rise Of The Guardians, a film not slated for release until November. A Q&A will also be held with cast members Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, and Isla Fisher plus director Peter Ramsey as well as the author of the book on which the film is based, William Joyce. Later in the week, DWA is hosting a Gala Presentation of Madagascar 3: Escape to Europe with Katzenberg, the filmmakers, and cast in tow including Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, David Schwimmer, Jessica Chastain, and Martin Short. The cast will also be completing international press while here, as well as a live interview with The Today Show on Friday. Fest general delegate Thierry Frémaux has been fond of calling DWA “a friend of the festival” ever since he scandalized Cannes traditionalists by including 2001’s Shrek in competition. He repeated the feat in 2004 with Shrek 2. In 2008, Frémaux gave Kung Fu Panda an official out of competition screening – and its sequel was screened last year.
PARAMOUNT: Paramount’s presence other than the DWA films it distributes will fall to The Dictator’s Admiral General Aladeen who’ll hold a press conference. Sacha Baron Cohen has been making the rounds as the eponymous character so he’s taking advantage of Cannes. Back in 2006, he caused a stir on the Croisette as Borat frolicking in the surf sporting his now infamous fluorescent mankini.
DISNEY: Last year, Disney premiered Pirates Of The Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides out of competition at Cannes. But don’t expect a screening of footage from Pixar’s Brave. Even though the studio did just show 30 minutes of Brave at CinemaCon. And even though Pixar made history in 2009 when it opened the festival with Up, the first-ever animated film to do so. Walt Disney Company France chief Jean-François Camilleri confirms the studio is sitting this fest out. “We have no new films or footage to show.” Instead, Disney/Pixar is having a huge Brave junket in Scotland on June 1st. Then a huge premiere back in LA after that, adding fire to the argument that films can be launched on a global level in many different places for a competitive cost compared to Cannes.
FOX: Execs don’t think Fox has promo’d a summer film at Cannes for at least half a dozen years. In the run-up to the announcement of the official selection, folks thought Ridley Scott’s Prometheus would come to the fest in or out of competition since the director opened Cannes two years ago with Universal’s Robin Hood. But I’m told that the prospect of Prometheus going to Cannes never came up for discussion at Fox. “There’s just no reason to. We can’t get a screen in a big enough venue unless it was in competition,” an insider explains. Instead Fox will stage the world premiere post-Cannes in London where the film has deep ties because it was shot at Pinewood.
SONY: Sony Pictures Entertainment isn’t pushing anything new at Cannes this year. Not even Men In Black III, which Will Smith is currently promoting on a tour of 8 countries in 10 days, with a big event planned for each like Monday night’s premiere for 10,000 people at the O2 Centre. Not even Amazing Spider-Man, which will enjoy a similar push next month. “That’s much more bang for our buck/euro,” an SPE exec explains. However, SPE’s home entertainment division has put together a Cannes event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lawrence Of Arabia.
UNIVERSAL: Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom competition premiere coincides with the 10th anniversary of Focus Features in what will be the only Universal-related film to have a high-profile presence at the Palais. (Not counting a re-mastered version of Jaws screening in Cannes Classics). I’m told the decision not to push upcoming Universal pics like Battleship and Snow White And The Huntsman came down to timing. “I really think our global promotional and talent travel plan was best served by going earlier,” a top exec says. Instead, Uni premiered Snow White in London Monday night 3 weeks before its release after a huge junket this past weekend. And Battleship has been playing overseas for a month before its U.S. release.
WARNER BROS: “None of our films are ready for a debut in Cannes, including The Dark Knight Rises,” an exec explains. “We have a very big campaign planned. It’s also very early in the rollout. Cannes works best if you’re opening your movie right after or if you are launching a very long lead critical campaign.” Warner Bros typically doesn’t do much promotion at Cannes, so it won’t be trotting out Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike or its Tom Cruise-starrer Rock Of Ages from New Line. A concert with Cruise as Stacee Jaxx or a Magic Mike-themed pole-dancing party on a yacht would have been perfectly ‘Cannoise’, as they say. Even the French media strongly believed TDKR would receive promotion from Cannes. Nope.
LIONSGATE: Lionsgate/Summit will be pushing titles at the market, primarily Dirty Dancing, Catching Fire, and Red 2. “Apart from selling films, we’re not taking anything to Cannes this year to promote. No reason other than nothing we have coming up is a ‘fit’ for Cannes in terms of timing.”