Cannes 2012: European Soccer Championship Plays Into Saturday Night Plans

Soccer Chelsea and Bayern Munich H 2012

Fans of German club Bayern Munich and London's Chelsea look to put dealmaking on a temporary hold.

The premieres, the glamor, the dealmaking here in Cannes - they will all take a temporary back seat for some British and German industry folks Saturday night.

That night, European soccer giants Chelsea, based in West London, and Bayern Munich, from Germany's Southern-most state of Bavaria, will clash in this year's final of Europe's biggest club soccer tournament, the Champions League.

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The winner of the game, scheduled to be played in Munich's Allianz Arena and kicking off at 8:45 p.m. Cannes time, will have bragging rights to call themselves the best soccer team in Europe.

Bayern, looking for a trophy after being torn apart 5:2 by Dortmund in Germany's cup final last weekend, edged out Spain's Real Madrid and its star Ronaldo in a penalty shootout to make it to the final. Chelsea beat Spain's mighty Barcelona, which had last year won the tournament in a 3:1 victory over Manchester United.

Chelsea's star players include Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba. Bayern's stars include Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez and Philipp Lahm.

The Champions League final doesn't always kick off during the Festival de Cannes, but this year's Riviera shindig is later than normal in May due to the recent French presidential elections.

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The early evening film screening Saturday night at 7 p.m. is John Hillcoat's Lawless, starring Tom Hardy. Its timing could allow attendees to run off for the second half of the soccer clash. According to insiders though, West London-born Hardy will not be too bothered as he and his family are big fans of Chelsea rivals Queen's Park Rangers.

The German industry, much of it Munich-based, is talking of little but the Bayern-Chelsea game ahead of tonight’s match.

Film trumped soccer for Constantin Film boss Martin Moszkowicz, who had two tickets to the final in Munich, but gave them up to come to Cannes. But German execs have cancelled meetings, dinners and screenings that conflict with the kick-off time.

The German pavilion plans to set up a huge screen to allow Bayern fans and neutrals to catch the match. And sales group Beta Cinema will be hosting a Champions League screening party at their offices in the Grand and expect a flood of gate crashers.
"We have to be careful we don’t get overrun,” said Thorsten Ritter, executive vp of worldwide acquisitions at Beta and an obsessive Bayern fan. “We need to have enough room to have a clear view of the screen.”

Alexander van Dulmen of A Company is also planning a private screening of the soccer championship game, at the production/distributor’s Cannes villa. “But if you’re not supporting Bayern, you’re not invited,” van Dulmen warned THR.

Oliver Simon of Munich-based K5 International was still at loose ends a few days before the match, having not yet found a location to watch “Bayern redeem its season.” “We’ve been asking around Cannes but the French don’t care at all. So we’ll have to find some party to crash. I wonder if Beta will mind if we bring 15 people?”  

Among English industry folks, big Chelsea fans include former Miramax Films and National Geographic chief Daniel Battsek and veteran industry player Martin Myers.

London-based publicity giant DDA is this year again expected to host a screening of the final.

Should executives from the U.S. or other countries mistakenly believe that the Brits will unite to support the English club against the German side, they are mistaken.

The crowd supporting Bayern Munich may well be swelled by the legions of fans of other British clubs hoping Chelsea fail at the final hurdle. "I'm buying a Bayern shirt for the evening," said one high-flying executive who is normally found shouting for London rival club Arsenal FC. "Let's hope [former Chelsea player] Arjen Robben scores a hattrick [or three goals] against his former club. Now that would be funny."

One of the great Champions League finals, contested between England's Liverpool and Italy's AC Milan in 2005 came after the Festival de Cannes finished.

Previous contests watched by the British industry with deal memos awaiting ink included Barcelona versus Arsenal in 2006 on the opening night of that year's Festival de Cannes, featuring a screening of The Da Vinci Code, and Milan versus Liverpool in 2007.

That game ended in disappointment for the gathered Liverpool fans with Milan winning the rematch from 2005, but reports that movie prices went up for Italian buyers the following morning for U.K. movies are largely unconfirmed.

Soccer fans in Cannes already got one treat late in the week as news broke that Paul Greengrass would direct a documentary about Spanish soccer powerhouse Barcelona.

Read more from THR's Cannes Daily No. 4 here (PDF).