EXCLUSIVE: Get off the red carpet or get arrested was the message sent by Cannes Film Festival ushers Tuesday night to hundreds of ticket holders who were turned away from the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood at the Grand Lumiere.
After arriving a solid 30 minutes or more in advance of the red carpet’s 5:15 PM close time, roughly 100-200 balcony ticket holders — many who paid $1,000+ a ticket — were held at the edge of the red carpet for an hour, while orchestra and mezzanine ticket holders were fast-tracked into the venue even as the celebrity guests were arriving.
After the Once Upon a Time cast entered, the balcony ticket holders were informed there were no more seats left in the house (even though we heard otherwise). I was one of those turned away, and keep in mind our tickets were scanned! This is a complete F-up on behalf of the festival, exemplifying its red carpet mismanagement and the overall pretension of the staff. It’s what everybody hates about Cannes, and the festival provided no acceptable answer as to why many were held back from entering the venue, even though they arrived early.
Realize that many flee the annual festival on Tuesday, but with the Tarantino premiere doubling as the 25th anniversary of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction at the fest, they decided to stay later and get gussied up.
It’s hard to recall an A-list film festival overbooking a world premiere by so many people. Even a massive world premiere for Star Wars or a Marvel film (which takes over an entire block in Hollywood) has the celebrity and general attendees entry flow under control.
One movie buyer who has been coming to the festival for a decade and who extended his stay in Cannes to catch the movie was among those to be turned away.
“I was so disappointed. I’ve been coming to the festival for a decade,” he told Deadline. “There were at least one hundred people behind me who didn’t get in. I assume they all had tickets. I know many of them were industry. I changed my ticket to make sure I was here for this screening. I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s really bad form.”
Could the Balcony guests still have entered the Grand Lumiere through the side entrance as the celebrities were entering the front? Of course, but as is standard in Cannes, there are too many foot soldiers at the festival and not enough chiefs willing to solve a crowd situation at hand. I informed the Cannes ushers that Sony reps were coming down to escort me into an open seat, but in robotic form they told me and the crowd to exit the GTL perimeter, or else the cops would force us out.
Cannes needs to be more professional and courteous with their guests. Our tickets were scanned — that meant we were guaranteed seats. There’s no excuse. Cannes should be embarrassed because you don’t see this type of treatment at other global festivals like Sundance, Toronto or Berlin.
There’s also a scenario here tonight where the festival fooled Sony with its premiere ticket allotment for the press. Paramount was able to secure reserved orchestra right-side seats in the Grand Lumiere for key press members and critics at the Rocketman premiere. Why then was Sony forced to give out unassigned Balcony seats to the press? Some of us had assignments, i.e., report on the atmosphere in the room and Tarantino’s anticipated standing-ovation speech. (Note: Sony didn’t have this problem at Cannes in 2016 when it premiered the Jodie Foster-George Clooney-Julia Roberts movie Money Monster.)
In previous years, where ticketed guests enter the Grand Lumiere after the film has started (which is rare), the overflow is typically placed in an adjacent theater near the Palais theater, but that never occurred. The last time in memory when this happened was for the Francois Ozon film The Swimming Pool.
This year’s festival has been a return to form in terms of the quality of movies on show. But the event has suffered PR-wise. This latest snafu follows the late release of the press and market screenings schedules and the cinema on the beach schedule. The festival has also had to contend with frustration from some quarters over Alain Delon receiving an Honorary Palme d’Or. The screen icon is controversial for allegedly hitting a woman in the past and for his right-wing views.
Said one awards-season publicist to Deadline tonight: “What a hot mess. I got to Cannes this year and my badge was downgraded. The festival is so disorganized.”
Andreas Wiseman contributed to this article.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.