Cannes Film Festival: Another blockbuster year?
After last year’s ‘Elvis’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres, will Hollywood send its newest features to represent American Cinema on the Croisette?
Organisers for the annual celebration of all things cinema on the French Riviera certainly hope so, though their ambitions could collide with hesitant studios about cashing out the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to pull off a Cannes Premiere. The Cannes Film Festival chief, Thierry Frémaux, visited Los Angeles recently and is already planning a return visit as he attempts to pull together one of the most formidable lineups in the 76-year history of the event. According to a report from Variety’s website, he’s made it clear to studio executives that he would love to highlight both their blockbusters and their award contenders. Though formal offers have not been made or accepted, this year’s Festival de Cannes has the potential to match or even surpass the 2022 edition — which played host to Tom Cruise for “Top Gun: Maverick” and Austin Butler and Tom Hanks for “Elvis” — in movie star moments. No expense was spared for the blockbuster premiere of the long-awaited "Top Gun" sequel, which included Cruise arriving by helicopter and an acrobatic fly-over from the Patrouille de France, the nation's acrobatic arm of the Air Force.
Apple is weighing sending Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” to the festival and with it a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons. Focus is expected to hit the Croisette with Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.” This ensemble film boasts many stars, including Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton. Anderson, who has an apartment in Paris, was at the Cannes 2021 edition with “The French Dispatch,” which played in the competition. His “Moonrise Kingdom” was the festival opener and competed in 2012.
What of the other major summer movies? In 2008, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and the filmmaking team of Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas staged the titular archaeologist’s return to the big screen by unveiling the film in Cannes. Disney, which is releasing the latest sequel, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is considering a return trip to the Croisette. Warner Bros. has discussed sending Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, but the film is more likely to launch nearer to Barbie’s Malibu home. Even if the studio skips the fest, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will touch down in France. He’s hosting a dinner at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc with former Vanity Fair editor and current Air Mail chief Graydon Carter.
Some movies won’t make the transatlantic journey. After “Oppenheimer” cast member Matthew Modine tweeted a poster of the movie with the hashtag #Cannes2023, speculation that the Christopher Nolan feature would debut at the festival intensified. However, Modine quickly deleted his message, and insiders say that “Oppenheimer” will likely premiere somewhere else closer to its July release date.
While American movies are traditionally the first to be secured for Cannes, some international films are also rumoured to be in the mix, notably “Monster” by Palme d’Or-winning Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, as well as “How Do You Live?” the first feature film in more than a decade from animation master Hayao Miyazaki. Then there’s Pedro Almodóvar’s short film “Strange Way of Life” with Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, and several French movies, including Maïwenn’s “Jeanne du Barry,” which features Johnny Depp as King Louis XV. Other likely Cannes titles include Palme d’Or-winning Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “About Dry Grasses.”
For those studios that snag an invite, a Cannes debut allows them to command global attention. In the case of “Top Gun: Maverick,” a celebration of the U.S. Air Force that was seen as more of a domestic play, premiering at Cannes helped the studio introduce the film to European audiences. Not only was Cruise on hand, but the event also included an aerial display for the ages as French fighter jets took to the sky streaming blue, white and red smoke. It worked. “Top Gun: Maverick” went on to make more than $770 million internationally, more than half its nearly $1.5 billion global gross.
The magic of Cannes
In the past, some studios were hesitant to open in Cannes, because it felt too far removed from the fall Oscar season. But that stance has changed. Although it takes place months before many of the biggest awards shows, Cannes has proven to be a strong showcase for potential Oscar contenders. Not only did “Parasite” open at the festival before its Academy Award for Best Picture, but three of the Best Picture nominees this year — “Elvis,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Triangle of Sadness” — all debuted in Cannes at the 2022 festival.
The main concern for studios is the cost of attending Cannes. For a premiere, the price tag can climb to more than $1 million. That’s because A-list stars usually fly private and have glam teams that often must be ferried to the festival. Stars can bring one to two guests on the studio dime and a personal publicist, but that number can vary, and the bigger the actor, the larger the amount is. Given that most entertainment companies are laying off staff and looking for ways to rein in spending as they worry about a potential recession, those are checks that studios are wary of writing. “The farther away an event is, the higher the costs,” says one film publicist to Variety. “And Cannes is about as far away and expensive as it gets.”