Why Does Cannes Feel So Quiet This Year?

Getty Images
Cannes Film Festival

Whether due to security concerns or smaller budgets, insiders agree that the fest is distinctly less crowded this year.

It’s quiet. Almost too quiet.

The first weekend in Cannes is typically when the madness starts, when the bustle on the Croisette becomes a heaving, impenetrable throng. Producers fight for tables at the Majestic and the halls of the Cannes Market are a slalom of sellers and distribution execs.

Not this year.

“It’s definitely quieter. Everyone is talking about it,” says Gianluca Chakra, head of Middle East distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment. “You can get a measure of the [festival] traffic from the nights in front of the Grand. Usually I had to dodge my way in.”

This year, it’s been easy for anyone to find a table at the Grand, or the Carlton, or at any of the Cannes beaches for lunch. “When can you actually find a place here? When can you have your choice of tables?” asks Los Angeles-based attorney Greg Bernstein, who has been coming to Cannes for nearly 25 years. “I love it, but I have never seen it like this.”

Bernstein says security fears — prompted by recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels — have kept some away, but market consolidation likely is as significant a factor in clearing out the Croisette.

The Marche du Film, however, insists attendance this year is on par and even slightly above last year’s. Market executive director Jerome Paillard says attendance to date stands at 11,700, which is 2 percent above 2015 at the same point in the market. He insists there has not been a significant decline anywhere.

Anyone walking the near-empty halls of the Palais might dispute the accuracy of those figures, but whatever the industry attendance, there were clearly fewer people on the streets of Cannes this weekend. A THR journalist tested the crowd by walking at a steady clip down the Croisette from the Martinez to the market and didn’t once have to break stride or dodge a tourist.

CanalPlus’ decision to drop its Le Grand Journal television show, which usually broadcasts daily programs live from Cannes, has meant French fans clamoring for celebrity sightings have largely abandoned the festival. And thanks to recent French legislation criminalizing the purchase of sex, even Cannes’ most dependable street walkers are this year nowhere to be seen.