How Cannes Pulled Off an In-Person Film Festival via Spending More Than $1 Million on COVID Checking out (EXCLUSIVE)


The 74th annual Cannes Film Festival beat the chances via handing over two weeks of nonstop films — and main stars akin to Matt Damon, Regina King and Timothée Chalamet — in the midst of an international pandemic.

It wasn’t a very simple job. Variety has realized that the pageant fronted greater than $1 million to hide the prices of standard, loose COVID checking out to roughly 28,000 attendees. Those from the European Union may just bypass such procedures via appearing evidence of vaccination, however there have been no promises that folks wouldn’t get in poor health because the Delta variant unfold globally.

When French actor Léa Seydoux, who had 3 movies in pageant, canceled her go back and forth to Cannes after checking out certain for COVID-19, which she shrunk on a film set, some feared that it was once the start of a wave of instances.

But to this point, there were no studies of main outbreaks out of Cannes. Even rumors that French President Emmanuel Macron would close down the pageant proved unfounded, as the rustic’s stricter laws for admission into cultural occasions didn’t cross into impact till post-Cannes.

“It was a wonderful festival and an exceptional one as well,” Thierry Frémaux, the pageant’s creative director, tells Variety after the realization of the festivities on July 17. “We managed to pull it through at the right time and in conditions that were almost normal thanks to a protocol that was intelligent and responsible.”

International stars and top-level executives grew to become up in large numbers. Adam Driver jetted to France for the sector premiere of the opening-night musical, “Annette.” Wes Anderson’s comedy, “The French Dispatch,” scored a nine-minute status ovation for its A-list forged, together with Chalamet, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton. Bucking Cannes custom, the ensemble confirmed up in combination in a celebration bus as an alternative of a chauffeured automotive.

Spike Lee, the pageant’s first Black jury president, basked within the highlight. He went viral for unintentionally revealing the winner of the Palme d’Or — “Titane,” a provocative drama by which a lady will get impregnated via a automotive — on the height of the Cannes Awards. Other pageant highlights integrated Damon tearing up all over the status ovation for “Stillwater” and the premiere of “Aline,” an over-the-top biopic impressed via Celine Dion’s existence.

“We had not imagined that the reunion would be so sumptuous,” says Frémaux, who admits that he had by no means noticed such a lot of status ovations at Cannes.

It additionally proved to be a pageant of firsts in alternative ways. “Titane” director Julia Ducournau turned into the inaugural lady to win a solo Palme d’Or. Frémaux says the prize was once selected via a “historic jury, presided by a Black artist and mainly composed by women. It’s a win which reflects the world as it is, and the festival’s aspiration to be inclusive, pioneering and modern.”

As for the dealmaking, it wasn’t as brisk as in customary instances. Distributors, who’re nonetheless not sure concerning the calculus of theatrical price tag gross sales, exercised warning. But when the mud had settled, Cannes counted sufficient high-profile pacts to go away maximum patrons satisfied.

“Nothing will ever replace the powerful experience of watching a film on a big screen at a festival,” says Grégoire Melin of Kinology, the gross sales banner at the back of “Annette” and Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee.” “We’ve seen that selling films based on virtual screenings takes longer without the word of mouth.”

Many of the key indie avid gamers, together with Neon, A24, IFC Films and Sony Pictures Classics, left France with new titles for his or her upcoming slates.

“Frémaux was able to bring filmmakers together and bring a slate of pretty remarkable films under such pressure and difficulty,” says Michael Barker, Sony Pictures Classics co-chief, who purchased Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6” forward of its Grand Prize win at Cannes. “Almost all the films I saw were of a very high quality.”

Sony Pictures additionally scored large in France with “Mothering Sunday,” an awards hopeful set within the Nineteen Twenties directed via Eva Husson. Barker says the pageant’s largest success was once turning the highlight again on moviegoing.

“As we have spent the lockdown watching these movies on the small screen, you can certainly see the big difference and the impact of the large screen,” Barker says. “At Cannes we got a real sense that that large-screen viewing is not going to go away.”

Nathanaël Karmitz, the boss of MK2 Films, which had 9 movies at Cannes, together with Joachim Trier’s prize-winning “The Worst Person in the World,” agreed.

“It was a rebirth in many ways, feeling again the collective pleasure, seeing artists and seeing Cannes, the world’s biggest film festival, kick off a new beginning for the indie film world after a long break,” says Karmitz, who’s been attending Cannes for two decades.

Although the contest lineup was once relatively overloaded with French films, the pageant as a complete felt actually global.

“People had said, ‘The Americans won’t be present at Cannes,’ but ultimately the decent amount of deals shows that there’s still an interest for prestige movies playing at the festival,” says Anton exec Cécile Gaget, who bought “Curs>r” to Netflix originally of the fest.

Now, all eyes will likely be at the fall movie gala’s — Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York — to look if they may be able to reflect the similar good fortune.

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