Hollywood Braces for Laptop Ban on European Flights Ahead of Cannes

Cannes Film Festival Atmosphere - Getty - H 2017
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Festivalgoers are crying foul amid concerns about broken or stolen devices as well as how to pass the time on a transatlantic flight.

Hollywood is bracing for a looming laptop ban on flights from Europe to the United States, a move that could have a major impact on people traveling to the Cannes Film Festival.

The Trump administration has indicated that it will expand a similar rule already in place that bans laptops and tablets from the cabins of flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. That ban was imposed in March and required passengers carrying anything bigger than a smartphone to put it into checked baggage.

The festival, held on the French Riviera, runs May 17-28. If the program is expanded in the coming days, as expected, to include the dozens of airports in Europe, festivalgoers will be caught in the cross hairs on their return trips.

"It’s crazy. I don’t want to stick my laptop under the plane," says Jeffrey Greenstein, president of international sales at Millennium Films, who is primarily concerned about devices being damaged or stolen. "What’s next: They’re going to tell me I can’t bring a watch or jewelry on the plane because terrorists might pack explosives in the that."

Greenstein's concerns were echoed by a number of other industry people beginning to arrive at the festival. One marketing executive said he endured a similar ban when heading to the Edinburgh Festival in 2005 following the London 7/7 terror attacks and "it was the worst flight of my life."

The Trump administration instituted the laptop ban on flights from the Middle East due to intelligence pointing to terrorists having the ability to hide explosives in laptops and other large devices. The U.K. also adopted a similar rule in March by banning such electronics on some flights from the Middle East.

But others welcome the opportunity to disconnect from in-flight Wifi services.

“It’s less time out of action than if I were an observant Jew on the Shabbat,” says American Entertainment Investors president Joseph N. Cohen, whose clients include Alcon Entertainment. “It will mean some well needed R and R.”

Security has become one of the most discussed topics by those beginning to arrive in Cannes. Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for its citizens going to Europe, citing the continued threat of terror attacks. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that the European laptop ban was under consideration and discussion began with airline industry representatives about how to implement. Reuters news agency quoted one official who said the expansion could come soon.

If it takes effect, Hollywood agents, executives, producers and stars will have to return to old-fashioned ways to pass the time: in-flight movies, books and sleep.

But one Cannes-goer saw a silver lining with the proposed rule. Says producer Marc Butan, whose MadRiver will be selling a number of films at the festival including the Joaquin Phoenix-John C. Reilly period drama The Sisters Brothers. "At least I won't spend 10 hours online reading about Trump's latest corruption embarrassment and be forced to think, 'OK, how do I explain this one to my kids?'"