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Iris Knobloch, former president of Warner Bros. France, has been picked to be the first-ever female president of the Cannes Film Festival.
Knobloch will take over from current Cannes President Pierre Lescure, who was re-elected for a third term in 2020 and is planning to step down after this year’s festival in May. Knobloch would officially step into the post in 2023.
The German-born, Paris-based Knobloch is best-known in the industry for her long and successful career at WarnerMedia, where she eventually became head of the studio’s operations across France, Germany, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland, overseeing strategy, commercial and group marketing activities for the regions.
Knobloch stepped down in June last year amid Warner’s global restructuring efforts and launched a €250 million ($300 million) European special-purpose acquisition company with Artemis, the investment firm backed by French businessman François-Henri Pinault, the boss of luxury giant Kering (and husband of Salma Hayek). Kering, conveniently, is also one of the Cannes festival’s official sponsors.
At Warner Bros., Knobloch played a key role in lobbying to secure a Cannes competition slot for Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist in 2011, a launchpad the film used en route to a historic awards run, capped by five Oscar wins, including for best picture, in 2012.
Ahead of her appointment, some in the French film industry pointed to a possible conflict of interest with Knobloch having such a position of influence in Cannes while continuing to run an entertainment company. She had said her new company will not invest in any film-related assets that could have a connection to Cannes. The fact that Knobloch is not a French national has also generated some attention in Paris.
But for Cannes, having a former studio executive at the helm could help the festival make up ground lost to Venice by luring more big Hollywood titles to the Croisette.
Variety was the first to break the news about Knobloch’s appointment.
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