By Adam Leipzig, Entertainment Media Partners, and Jeremy Kay, Screen International
The red carpet and rosé, movies and movie stars, buying and selling, prix and paparazzi. The world is watching. How does the Cannes Film Festival showcase the worldwide business of film?
Here are our findings:
Is Art its Own Reward?
Films in Festival competition don’t tend to make a lot of money. Only two in-competition films in the past five years have grossed more than $100 million worldwide. Nor do they win many Academy Awards; in the past five years, in-competition films have only taken home eight Oscars, out of 47 nominations.
Why? The Cannes Film Festival exemplifies the dual drivers of the international film industry. On the one hand, it is the most celebrated venue for premieres, especially those by notable directors. Cannes celebrates the art of filmmaking, and its 2014 jury is comprised of international art house luminaries: jury president Jane Campion (New Zealand) is joined by Willem Dafoe (US), Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark), Jia Zhangke (China) Sofia Coppola (US) Gael García Bernal (Mexico), Leila Hatami (Iran, star of Oscar-winner A Separation), Jeon Do-yeon (South Korea), and Carole Bouquet (France).
On the other hand, the Marché du Film, its film market, which runs parallel to the festival, is the year’s most important movie buying-and-selling bazaar. While the number of buyers, producers, sales agents, and countries represented has been rising steadily over the past three years, the number of films screening remain roughly even. This year, 560 sales agents and 5,100 companies will hold court in suites, tents and bars. 110 countries will be represented, and there will be 1,450 movies screened in the market—a number that towers over the 19 films in Festival competition.
International Talent, But Not Always Distribution
Cannes faithfully represents the international composition of the movie industry, but the films don’t always travel to screens worldwide.
Talent. For the films in competition in the past five years, international lead actors, producers and directors have outpaced US citizens in the same categories by ratios as high as 19:1. However, US representation is trending upward. In 2013, US lead actors, producers and directors comprised one-quarter of the talent pool for in-competition films. And that may be good for their commercial success: The biggest earners at the global box office (including the international box office portion) tend to be those that contain a US element, be it a production company, director or star.
Distribution. What happens to those films after the festival is another story. Of the 101 films in competition between 2009-2013, 78% were distributed in the United States, 50% were distributed in Brazil, but only 4% of them gained distribution in China.
Phantom India. India is a movie powerhouse, with immense box office grosses, admissions and screen count. Yet Bollywood movies have not achieved particular commercial success internationally. Among all the major film territories, only India has not had a film represented in competition at Cannes over the past five years.
Power and powerlessness
No majors. US studios have not acquired a single Cannes competition film in the last five years. At times, a US studio will bring a film to Cannes, as Paramount did with Nebraska.
Art house. IFC Films is the most voracious buyer of Cannes films for the US market, as it feeds its VOD (video on demand) pipeline. The Weinstein Company and Sony Classics are also major US buyers.
Captain America. In-competition films that generate the biggest revenues tend to have a US component, such as a US distributor or US stars. French films also fare well. There are a few notable exceptions: Japan’s Like Father, Like Son, Spain’s The Skin I Live In, South Korea’s The Housemaid, Italy’s We Have a Pope and The Great Beauty, and Scandinavia’s Melancholia and The Hunt.
Trends and predictions
One of the benefits of assembling data is that it gives us the opportunity to spot trends and, throwing caution to the winds, predict the future. Here’s what we foresee:
A strong America. Even as North America’s box office becomes a smaller percentage of the global total, US stars, directors and studios will continue to produce the most commercially successful films worldwide, and, in fact, their significance will increase.
Mixed results for sales agents. Because the movie business has become more global and transactional, additional sales agents will come into the ranks. Short term, this may spur greater opportunities and competition. Long term, it will make existing sales agents fight harder for a smaller slice of the pie. We expect to see consolidation and a correction in the number of sales agents beginning in 2016.
China will become more international. In order to demonstrate its membership in the international filmmaking community, beginning this year we’ll see an uptick in the number of in-competition films available to Chinese audiences.
Time will tell if these predictions prove correct. Until then, the Croisette awaits. Enjoy your rosé.
Cannes Film Festival by the Numbers: Infographic, 2014
View the animated infographic at CannesbytheNumbers.com
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Top photo: The red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. © FDC/Quitot.