Cannes Winners and Losers: Who Lit Up the Festival and What Fizzled

11:00 AM 5/20/2016

by Gregg Kilday

Amazon and STX had a pretty good run during the 69th annual festival, but Woody and Chinese offerings did not.

Cafe Society Cast - H - 2016

As the 69th Cannes Film Festival heads toward its close May 22, there has been a noticeable lack of fireworks — literally and figuratively. An incendiary May 11 THR essay written by Ronan Farrow and a rape joke from the opening night emcee overshadowed Woody Allen's Cafe Society premiere, and Julia Roberts walked the Money Monster red carpet barefoot (a not-too-subtle jab at last year's "flatgate" flap). But since then, shenanigans and controversies have been few. Terror threats seemed to have sapped attendance on the Croisette, and the scrum to get into parties appeared less intense — with a few festival veterans complaining that the Vanity Fair fete at the Hotel du Cap didn't live up to past glories. The China delegation canceled its annual fireworks display over safety concerns, and even Shia LaBeouf behaved. And despite a steady stream of sales, there were few big-ticket deals by press time. Says Alex Walton, president of sales and financing company Bloom, "The market is limited in terms of movies that people are fighting and scampering over."

This story first appeared in the May 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Winner: Amazon Studios

    With five films in the festival itself — from Cafe Society to Jim Jarmusch's Paterson to Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon — Amazon Studios, headed by Roy Price (with Jason Ropeli, Bob Berney and Ted Hope overseeing the film) made a splashy Cannes debut as rival Netflix mostly sat out. Amazon threw a party at open-air nightclub Silencio and beat out A24 with a $3.5 million bid for North American rights to Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix (A24 also snared Mike Leigh's period drama Peterloo). "Amazon is pretty active in this specialized market, and they're really aggressive," observes STX International president David Kosse.

  • Winner: STX Entertainment

    But Robert Simonds' 2-year-old STX was no slouch, either. In addition to ponying up $50 million for the foreign rights to Martin Scorsese's upcoming The Irishman, it also bet $9 million on U.S. and Chinese rights to the Aaron Sorkin-directed Molly's Game, starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.

  • Winner: Jeff Nichols

    The director has been to Cannes with films like Take Shelter, but his new movie, Loving, an interracial romance about Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) and their Supreme Court case that struck down anti-discrimination laws, triggered the first real Oscar buzz.

  • Loser: Cafe Society

    Allen's new Hollywood-set movie got some warm reviews on opening night but quickly was overshadowed by the passionate essay THR published the same day, in which his son Farrow challenged the media for not questioning the 80-year-old director about allegations he had sexually assaulted his daughter Dylan. Then actor Laurent Lafitte piled on with a rape joke comparing the filmmaker to Roman Polanski. The next day, Allen's publicist prolonged the press coverage of the awkwardness by banning THR from the movie's promotional lunch, where Allen responded, "I've said all I have to say about it."

  • Loser: China

    According to the Marche du Film, Chinese attendance at Cannes hit a record high, with 428 Chinese registrants pouring into town. Among the power players on the scene were Bona Film COO Jeffrey Chan, Huayi Bros. CEO Jerry Ye and Shanghai Film chairman Ren Zhonglun. But there was no one Chinese film in the official selection, and little business involving Chinese companies came to fruition during the market. Worse still, the one Chinese title to hold a splashy news conference, Daniel Lee's Time Raiders, suffered a scheduling snafu that resulted in its stars being denied entry to the red carpet on opening night.