Cannes Unveils Plans for Virtual Film Market

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The online-only Marché du Film will run June 22-26 and be hosted on the film industry platform Cinando.

Cannes' Marché du Film on Friday unveiled detailed of its plans for its virtual film market.

The online-only Marché will run June 22-26 and be hosted on the film industry platform Cinando, says Cannes market director Jérôme Paillard. Accreditations for the Marché du Film Online cost 95 euros ($103) until May 29 and 195 euros ($212) after that. The prices include a one-year subscription to Cinando. That's a steep discount on the accreditation cost for the physical Marché, which ran from 319 euros ($347) for early-bird booking to a 433 euro ($471) on-the-spot accreditation, with additional costs for access to market-connected workshops and conference events.

"No one knows what the second half of the year may bring and whether it will be possible to organize major film events again in 2020, including the Festival de Cannes," said Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux in a statement. "Cannes has therefore decided to adapt its format for this peculiar year."

The online Marché will include virtual booths for sales companies to allow them to screen their films and projects-in-progress and connect with buyers as well as virtual pavilions for institutions such as film funds and regional filming boards. Market participants can also request and organize meetings via the Marché du Film networking app Match and Meet, which now allows the integration of video calls.

The core of the virtual market will be online screening rooms, where around 15 virtual cinemas will screen films according to set schedules. Reruns will be organized for buyers in different time zones. The platform will be based on Cinando's technology and on strict security measures, including DRM, individual watermark and real-time management and monitoring of admissions to screenings, the Cannes market says.

In addition, the Marché will screen programs and conferences online during the virtual market, including versions of its Cannes Docs, Cannes Next, Producers Network, Goes to Cannes, Frontières and Fantastic 7 programs. 

Other programs to be included in the Marché du Film Online are online speed meetings set around composers, book publishers or producers and Cannes XR, a program dedicated to immersive entertainment, where projects can be viewed with a VR headset.

"In this challenging situation, the film industry is expressing a need for a spring rendezvous before the summer," says Paillard. "A survey we conducted last week among distributors around the world reveals that 80 percent of them are interested in an online market and 66 percent have the capacity to make acquisitions (mainly of completed films but also of films in postproduction and writing). We won't replace the Cannes experience with the Marché du Film Online, but we are re-creating part of its essence online by offering professionals an efficient and cutting-edge platform to screen films, buy them, finance projects and meet partners. We're also experimenting a new market model that will allow professionals who didn't have the means or the time to come to Cannes to participate."

Cannes' virtual market will run alongside an independent online film market being organized by a group of major U.S. and European independent production and sales companies. The indie market, which will run June 22-28, has been spearheaded by the production and sales arms of four of the major agencies: CAA Media Finance, Endeavor Content, ICM Partners and the UTA Independent Film Group.

Paillard on March 18 announced plans to hold a virtual market this year, after Cannes was forced to postpone the film festival, originally scheduled for May 12-23, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, the online Marché was set to run alongside the physical market and festival, which, organizers hoped, would take place in late June to early July.

But new regulations issued by French President Emmanuel Macron on April 13 banned large public gatherings in France until mid-July. Cannes this week said holding the festival in late June or early July is no longer an option. "It is clearly difficult to assume that the Festival de Cannes could be held this year in its original form," festival organizers said. The festival's three main sidebars, Directors' Fortnight, Critics Week and the Acid section for up-and-coming filmmakers, abruptly canceled their 2020 events.

Cannes festival director Frémaux is holding out hope, however, that a physical festival can be held in some form. He has floated several ideas, including a collaboration with the Venice Film Festival, which is set to run Sept. 2-12, or with one of the fall festivals in Europe, such as San Sebastian (Sept. 18-26) or the Lumiere Festival in Lyon (Oct. 10-18), which Frémaux also runs. Frémaux, however, has ruled out taking the Cannes festival online, as has been done with events like the South by Southwest film festival.

While the festival ponders its next move, international film sales and distribution companies need to move forward with the packaging and financing of new projects, many of which will be pushed into production as soon as coronavirus quarantines are lifted.

The Cinando platform has some experience with virtual industry events, having hosted online versions of several film festivals and other events that have been forced online during the current crisis.