Cannes: Festivalgoers Want a "More Meaningful" Party Scene

TOM GRIEVSON/HANWAY FILMS
In 2017, director John Cameron Mitchell sang at HanWay Films' 'How to Talk to Girls at Parties' party.

Gone are the days of dancing and drinking till sunrise at Cannes, as "classy, tasteful fun is in" for parties.

Paramount Pictures' Rocketman party Thursday night was a blast from Cannes' past. Featuring endless booze and eats, a packed dance floor and a live performance by Elton John and Rocketman star Taron Edgerton, it was the kind of soiree that used to be de rigueur in Cannes. Industry veterans can remember the era of nightly bacchanalia that was once inseparable from the fest. 

"Back in the '90s, every night would be a party on a boat till 3 a.m., or a bus up into the hills for a crazy party in some villa that went on till daylight," recalls Phil Hunt, managing director of British financing group Head Gear Films. "But now there's less money in the business, 9/11 raised security, and the new mayor" — who introduced 2 a.m. shutdowns for Cannes beach events — "is a party pooper."

Rocketman aside, the party scene in Cannes has changed. Instead of free-flowing champagne and discos on the beach, a typical 2019 event is more likely to feature sustainable organic food and beverages — see the La Journée pop-up on the roof of the 3.14 Hotel, which hosted a tasteful cocktail party for The Dead Don’t Die actor (and Instagram star) Luka Sabbat and a launch dinner for new production shingle Totem. "I think people are looking for something else, something more meaningful," said La Journée co-founder Sandra Rudich. "We are trying to start a conversation and make an impact, with issues like ecology and women's empowerment."

Those who still want to boogie can do so, just at smaller and hipper fetes. Paris' Le Perchoir and the Cartel Agency have again joined forces for Nomade atop the Five Seas Hotel, which includes a secret suite that hosts late-night piano karaoke. Ken Loach, Claude Lelouch and Bong Joon Ho are hosting their parties there in a space so cozy, it has a canine mascot named Endive.

"You can still have a great party in Cannes, you just have to get someone else — a sponsor, a private members club — to pay for it," says Gabrielle Stewart of HanWay. "But what people want is more intimate, cooler affairs. Being ostentatious is out. Classy, tasteful fun is in."

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 18 daily issue at the Cannes Film Festival.