Cannes: 5 Signs of a Festival in Decline

9:15 PM 5/12/2018

by Scott Roxborough and Rhonda Richford

From a lack of star power to a noticeable dearth of the usual promotional billboards along the Croisette, the world's most prestigious film fest looked — and felt — much different this year.

From left: Cannes jury members Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Denis Villeneuve, Cate Blanchett and Robert Guediguian
From left: Cannes jury members Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Denis Villeneuve, Cate Blanchett and Robert Guediguian
Tony Barson/FilmMagic

The Cannes Film Festival did its best to put on a show for its 71st edition, but the mood along the Croisette this year was subdued. It wasn’t just the shadow of disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein casting a pall over the proceedings. Everywhere you looked, there were clear signs that the old thrill is gone.

  • Stars

    Pity the paparazzi. Cannes celeb-packed red carpets were barren this year despite the VIP-heavy jury (president Cate Blanchett, jury member Kristen Stewart) as the festival went for smaller, international fare with zero A-listers. (The biggest star offering — Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Fan Bingbing and Lupita Nyong’o — was actually at a THR-sponsored event for FilmNation’s as-yet-unmade spy thriller 355.)

  • Stunts

    Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone rolling down the Croisette on a tank to promote Expendables 3. Jerry Seinfeld in a bee costume zip-lining it off the roof of the Carlton for Bee Movie. Angelina Jolie Pitt, Will Smith and Jack Black riding an inflatable fish for Shark Tale. Cannes studio stunts — most of them coming from the mad mind of Dreamworks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg — are the stuff of legend. This year’s “big” stunt was a damp squib: Sony’s lame promotion for Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation featuring a “who’s that?” lineup of actors who dubbed the film’s foreign-language versions.

  • 'Solo'

    The festival once was able to rely on a few big U.S. tentpoles — Shrek, The Da Vinci Code, Ocean’s Thirteen — that would use Cannes for their world premieres, sparking interest in the festival from outside the rarified art house sphere. This year, Solo: A Star Wars Story is the lone studio title at the Palais and, in a snub to Cannes’ global importance, it wasn’t even a world premiere, since Solo did a gala red carpet in L.A. a week before.

  • Signage

    The clearest sign of Cannes decline is the lack. Of signs, that is. Billboards promoting upcoming studio titles and big-budget indie fare used to occupy every available space on the Croisette skyline. The front of the Majestic Hotel was plastered with posters, and the lawn of the Grand Hotel was always chock-a-block with pavilions promoting obscure film financiers, tech companies or high-end jewelers. This year, it was lots of visible green grass, bare walls and, except for a smattering of posters promoting Solo along the Croisette, signage-free streets.

  • Shindigs

    Events — from afternoon cocktails on Carlton Beach to swanky midnight-'til-6 a.m. villa bashes — are what makes Cannes Cannes. But not this year. Organizers reported a sharp decline in functions and festivities, evidenced by the empty tents along the beach and the odd sight of attendees looking fairly well-rested on day 4. “I’m having a great Cannes, but in terms of being out at night or parties, it’s just nothing,” said one PR rep.

    A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 13 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.