Cannes Declares Virtual Market a (Qualified) Success

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The Cannes Palais remained empty, but plenty of business got done at the Virtual Market.

More than 10,000 film professionals took part in the first-ever Marché du Film Online, compared to around 12,500 for last year's physical film market.

Cannes has declared its first and, if things go as planned, last virtual film market a success. Just more than 10,000 film professionals took part in the five-day event, which wrapped up June 28, according to official figures released Thursday.

That compares to the 12,527 attendees for last year's physical film market, which was a Cannes record.

More than half of the Virtual Cannes participants, 5,900, came from Europe, but U.S. executives made up the largest single contingent, with 1,500 taking part.

The 1,235 screenings held in Cannes' virtual cinemas was within shouting distance of the 1,464 physical screenings held at the Marché last year, but with far fewer films due to the higher number of repeat screenings for this year's event.

While Cannes obviously has a vested interest in presenting the virtual Marché as a success, that opinion fits in with accounts from distributors and sales agents.

"We received lots of messages from professionals telling us that it felt just like being in Cannes," noted Marché director Jérôme Paillard. "This proves that even virtual events are capable of creating moments where we can come and be together. Professionals were able to see the films, but they were also given the sense that they had seen them in good company!”

A particularly encouraging sign for the first online-only film market, set up in a matter of months after the coronavirus pandemic made a physical market untenable, was how well the technology worked. There were few reports of problems or issues with the market's Cinando platform, its virtual cinemas or its online conference program.

Virtual Cannes even succeeded in creating real buzz for some of the titles in the Cannes Official Selection, the films picked by the Cannes Festival to travel the world in lieu of a physical event on the Croisette this year. Both Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round with Mads Mikkelsen and the French social drama Gagarine from first-time directors Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh generated excitement (and global sales) off their Virtual Cannes debuts.

"The agility with which the Marché reinvented itself to adapt to this year's special circumstances was applauded by everyone from sales teams to buyers, whether in the office, at their villa, on the beach or on the other side of the world," said Cannes festival boss Thierry Frémaux. "It was a magnificent way of reuniting. It was also a first test run for the 2020 Official Selection films and for what the future might hold for Cannes 2021!”