Cannes Film Festival’s July Move Brings Sunny Perspective to Film Biz

Elsa Keslassy
·4-min read

By unveiling a new set of dates in early July, the Cannes Film Festival has brought much-needed hope and a sunny perspective for Zoom-fatigued industry players.

If the health situation allows, Cannes could be the first international film festival and market to take place in person in 2021. After a year of virtual meetings, the prospect of rejoicing on the Croisette, seeing familiar faces we’ve missed, and celebrating great filmmaking sounds almost too good to be true. But people across the board — cynics included — believe Cannes has a real shot at going ahead in July. Even if the pandemic is not completely over by then, the second wave will likely be behind us thanks to lockdown measures and vaccines.

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“The sun will shine again in July and we believe it will be a real Festival de Cannes as we’re used to. This news has given us and our buyers a very positive feeling, and gives us a sign of hope. We can see some light at the end at the tunnel,” Anna Marsh, CEO of Studiocanal (“Paddington”), tells Variety.

“We knew May wasn’t feasible and we’d rather have a real festival in person later on to give the event a chance to shine in its greatest light,” explains Marsh.

The Cannes Marché du Film is also being pushed from May to July to run alongside the festival, and sales agents don’t mind the shift.

“Our sales calendar is confused anyway because of the pandemic so it’s not an issue for us if the Cannes Marché is pushed by a couple months. It’s great that Berlin is organizing a virtual festival and market in March, and our next [rendez-vous] will be on the ground in Cannes,” adds March, who views Cannes as the “biggest film market in the world.”

Jean-Christophe Simon, CEO at the Berlin-based Films Boutique (“There is No Evil”), says news of Cannes’ July move has been greeted with enthusiasm by producers, distributors and sales agents. “The July dates are reassuring because it’s a delay that’s not too big and therefore won’t impact the commercial life of films, and at the same it’s far enough from the fall festivals so it won’t be too disruptive,” says Simon, who also points out that some summer festivals like Karlovy Vary, Sarajevo and Locarno might be affected to some extent.

From a sales agent’s perspective, Simon says Cannes’ change of date also confirms the modest prospects for dealmaking in the first half of the year. “The first half of this year is going to be difficult. There are fewer films at Sundance and Berlin and buyers are still very cautious because they have so many films to release,” he notes.

Mohamed Hefzy, the award-winning Egyptian screenwriter and producer who runs the banner Film Clinic (“Yomeddine”) and presides over the Cairo Film Festival, says Cannes had made a “necessary adjustment, even though it’s not ideal coming so close to Venice.”

“I guess some films’ release dates will be affected because of this shift but maybe it’s for the better given the COVID situation is likely to last into the summer,” says Hefzy.

Over at Paris-based distributor and sales company Pyramide (“Passion Simple”), Eric Lagesse, who also presides over the independent distributors guild DIRE, says Cannes’ change of dates was a “huge relief.”

“Like many distributors, I have 10 movies on the shelves that I need to release when cinemas reopen in France, and of course, we have no clue when that will be,” says Lagesse, who mentioned that he still had to release three movies that were part of the Cannes 2020 Official Selection.

“We must clear up our slate of overdue releases before heading to Cannes and May seemed like an impossible target, whereas early July should give us at least two to three months with cinemas open,” says Lagesse.

The veteran film executive explains that the ideal game plan for a distributor is to use Cannes as a launchpad for new films and release them in the following months.

As Kinology’s Gregoire Melin (“Annette”) puts it, “the bottom line is that Cannes in July is much better than no Cannes at all!”

There are also high expectations as far as the Official Selection, which could be particularly strong and larger than a normal year, says Melin, who added that the new timing for the event was “perfect for the current industry schedule.”

Daniel Ziskind, a Paris-based producer who is manager and producer of Film Clinic (“Yomeddine”) in Europe, is feeling equally upbeat. “It was important that the biggest festival in the world gave us, independent producers, some perspective. More than ever, we need Cannes to shine a light on our movies.” says Ziskind. “We all need Cannes, Locarno, Venice and San Sebastian.”

Cannes has been teasing its next edition on social media, saying 2021 will see the dawn of a new era:

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