CANNES: Hollywood excess hasn’t disappeared entirely from the 66th Festival De Cannes. But it will be limited to a few studios. Warner Bros is bringing Baz Luhrmann’s lush The Great Gatsby to town for opening night and a gala event. Lionsgate is organizing a beach blowout to promote Catching Fire even though it doesn’t release until November. Fox is making a big deal of the 50th anniversary of Cleopatra, partnering with Bulgari jewelers for a reception displaying pieces from Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection after a screening of the movie’s new restoration. Even the Cannes jury met for the first time last night, rather fittingly, for dinner at the Palme d’Or restaurant in the Martinez Hotel where the chef prepared a meal inspired by jury president Steven Spielberg’s films. And of course, billionaire Paul Allen’s yacht is expected to turn up in the bay with his annual super-exclusive party falling on May 20. But it’s not all champagne and bikinis on the boats. One exec who’s on a monster yacht each year at Cannes tells me it’s a cost-efficient way to do business rather than just a showy splurge. And even though some Cannes parties can cost $3 million, Warner Bros opened its wallets.
One executive calls it “a victory lap” for The Great Gatsby after grossing way above expectations in North America. Now the studio wants to generate buzz internationally for the film adaptation of this most American of novels. No problem, because the rules state a movie can be released in its own country and still have its international premiere at Cannes. So Warner Bros is using this glitzy platform to open in 49 territories on the weekend including France, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia and Korea.
The full cast and filmmakers will attend tonight including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, producers Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick, and several studio bigwigs led by Warner Bros Pictures chief Jeff Robinov. In 2001 Luhrmann opened the festival with Fox’s Moulin Rouge and one of the most memorable soirées, replete with Can Can girls, trapeze artists and Fat Boy Slim as deejay. The Gatsby after-party will evoke the Roaring 20s with help from partners Samsung, Tiffany, Moët, Brook Brothers and Chivas. There’s a gargantuan structure the size of an airplane hangar set up on a jetty across the port from the Palais where locals are already lining up for the screening Wednesday night. On Thursday night, the Gatsby party structure will be home to a soirée for about 800 locals. This isn’t an official festival event; rather it’s organized by the town each year and Warner Bros agreed to leave up the Gatsby décor for it.
Spectacularly Catching Fire is literally aflame at the entrance to the Majestic Hotel thanks to animations projected onto screens. Lionsgate co-chair Patrick Wachsberger whose wheelhouse is international also utilized Cannes to promote all the Twilight movies when he ran Summit. Now that the two studios are merged, he says with candor that he’s never done an event “at this level”. But because Hunger Games is a “huge, huge, huge” franchise, this festival is “the perfect place” to start talking to distributors about positioning, he notes. Cannes events “are not cheap,” he says. “And there is so much happening – like 10 parties the same night – so to do something that’s really out of the ordinary, you need the movie first and the talent and the event and the money,” Wachsberger admits.
Yachts are a perk of the past for Harvey and Bob. But their indie studio The Weinstein Company is still relying heavily on Cannes as a marketing tool. It’s holding a screening event to get its fall films out in front of the press since that scheme worked well last year. That 20-minute event is being extended to around an hour this year. Talent should turn up for films including Grace Of Monaco starring Kidman who’s a jury member, August: Osage County, One Chance, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, The Butler, Salinger and Fruitvale Station. Also on the jury is Christoph Waltz who will take time out from screening the competition films to sit down with Tim Burton whom The Weinstein Company is flying in for a round table discussion of his next project, Big Eyes. Burton starts shooting the movie in two months and Waltz stars along with Amy Adams. Other talent expected to beat the drum for their upcoming projects includes soccer legend Pele for Imagine and Seine Pictures’ biopic which Exclusive Media is selling, and Martin Scorsese for his Emmett/Furla, Paul Breuls and Corsan Films project Silence. Finally, Justin Timberlake is hosting a party with Foresight Unlimited for his Spinning Gold.
Those studios who’ve chosen not to come to the Riviera this time out say either the timing wasn’t right or their movies didn’t need Cannes as a platform. Still, most agree the festival is a great but also expensive place to promote a film. “It has to be the right movie for the right audience because all eyes are on you,” one exec tells me. “If you’re not going to deliver above expectations, why put yourself in the position?” Sony, Disney, Universal, DreamWorks and Paramount won’t be making a big play on the Croisette. But they won’t be ghosts either. Paramount’s Nebraska is screening in Competition while Universal has several international territories on official selection like All Is Lost and Directors’ Fortnight title Last Day On Mars. And, already, the Carlton Hotel is decked out with billboards for big movies not brought to the festival, including Sony’s Will Smith-starrer After Earth and Pixar’s prequel Monsters University.