Cannes' Weak Slate Adds Pressure on Fall Festivals to Deliver

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Cannes MVP Nicole Kidman starred in four films at the fest, including Focus' 'The Beguiled'

An absence of buzzworthy films at this year's fest raises expectations for Toronto, Telluride and Venice to deliver awards contenders.

This year's Cannes Film Festival (which concluded its two-week run May 28) offered few opportunities for the host of new buyers on hand to pick up finished films, ready for release. That could mean price inflation for the top indie product available at the leading fall film festivals: Toronto, Telluride and Venice. And since none of the movies that screened with distribution in place immediately appeared to be awards juggernauts, that also puts pressure on the fall fest circuit to deliver winners.

Despite the number of A-listers (Nicole Kidman, Jessica Chastain, Isabelle Huppert) who walked the Croisette, lending their sheen to Cannes' 70th anniversary celebration, by general consensus both the festival and the market were low-key affairs. With the major Hollywood studios largely staying away, the door was open for Netflix and Amazon to steal the spotlight, either through the pictures they screened or the ones they bought. Amazon unveiled a pair of competition entries, Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck and Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, while Netflix served up Bong Joon-ho's Okja and Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories. All found fans among critics, but none is necessarily a game-changer.

Netflix's logo actually drew boos at press screenings, given that its movies won't play in theaters in France before they begin streaming. But the market simply may not be delivering what Netflix and other upstarts, including STX, need. This explains why at least one U.S.-based contender, Megan Ellison's Annapurna, is now focusing on making and releasing its own movies — inking a slew of international partnerships to distribute in territories including Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, Benelux and Spain, Japan, Italy and France.

"The world is changing," says Kidman, who might as well have been referencing the markets as she described her four indie projects at the fest, "and we need to change with it." 

This story first appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.