The Cannes Film Festival and Its Red Carpet: a Brand on the Edge
The 70th Prize list of the Cannes Film Festival was revealed during the traditional closing evening, marking the end of a fortnight particularly colorful. At 70, Cannes remains an exceptional moment, a parenthesis that is still one of the most publicized recurring events in the world, just after the Olympic Games and the World Cup.
While the Venice Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival have bent to the competition of the North Americans (such as Sundance, Toronto, and even Deauville), Cannes has managed to preserve a true image that allows it to pass the years. We will decrypt the reasons for this sustainability.
France Welcomes All World Cinema
An international festival, Cannes provides us with a complete range of what contemporary cinema can offer. Beyond its “authorist” varnish, there comes the whole Hollywood and the Festival has always demonstrated a certain form of openness. This is evidenced by the good share given to China – whose box office has exploded between 2014 and 2016 (+ 37%) and is expected to become the world’s largest market in terms of revenue in 2019 –, during a night now well installed in the Cannes calendar: The “China Night”, which aims at promoting cooperation and exchange between the cinema of the Middle Kingdom and the international cinema, and especially the French one.
However, Cannes also claims its “so French” identity: As a cinema-country, moviegoer and curious, but also – and above all – as a model for the defence and promotion of cinema as an artistic expression. France, which has among others given the Nouvelle Vague to the world’s cinema, defends its own economic model that offers French and international works a haven of production and distribution – which the Festival likes to recall each year.
The Festival organisation, and in the first place Thierry Frémeaux, have thus revised the rules for selecting the Jury: This 70th edition has been marked by a great controversy linked to the presence of two films produced by the SVoD giant – Netflix – and which, in fact, will not necessarily be released on a big screen, thus shaking up the holy triptych of producer-distributor-cinema that France has championed with strength and constancy. After a heated debate, a rule requiring the films of the official selection to be released in cinemas from 2018 has been established. “The French cultural exception” could thus be used as a precedent on this subject which structurally disrupts the sector.
Creation Before All
Indeed, if Cannes is the world’s largest film market and the “first lung” of world cinema financing, representing colossal business stakes, it is also the biggest cinema event and remains the annual rendezvous of all moviegoers. It is still one of the few places that attract and mix filmmakers from all corners of the globe.
What makes the difference? A cleverly crafted program, in line with today’s society and that gives a good part to creation and experimentation in the 7th Art field. During this 70th edition, it was thus possible to find experimental works, an installation dedicated to the realisation in VR of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, TV series… and even films produced by Amazon and Netflix, therefore. A proof that Cannes, far from falling back on its past history, keeps on being up to date.
The Dream and the Glitter
But the Festival must also maintain its image of dreams and glitter, whose acme remains the rise of the Red Carpet steps, but which is also spreading more and more through the partner brands (L’Oréal, Renault, MasterCard, hp…), be they Official Partners, Technical Partners, or other brands. The latter give themselves carte blanche, outside the sacrosanct Palais, to appropriate a part of the Festival’s image beyond the dark rooms: Magnum or Chivas beaches, Nespresso restaurant, Schweppes Villa, Martini or Grey Goose terraces…
If the Festival has opened up to financially significant marketing partnerships, it has nevertheless taken care to sanctuarise the heart of its matter: films, artists, the Jury – in short, Cinema. Thus, the official poster does not include any logo, the rise of the Red Carpet remains untouched by any branding, as the opening ceremony and the awarding of the Prizes.
Having succeeded in preserving this delicate balance may explain the longevity of the “Cannes Film Festival” brand.
However, from artists to jet-setters, from producers to brands, from cinema operators to streaming platforms… the Festival has to face a changing ecosystem. Will it be able to remain this unavoidable event for all the sector’s stakeholders while displaying only the essential: Cinema and its artists? And will it be possible for it to welcome for a long time cinema from all over the world while claiming the values of a typically French model? The answers to these questions depend on the durability of the “Cannes Film Festival” brand.