Wes Anderson’s much-anticipated film, Moonrise Kingdom, opened up the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival this past week, and there’s already buzz that the film will become an early Oscar-contender. Now, a week later, the Cannes Film Festival is well underway, with 20 films competing for the prestigious Palme D’Or award. However, aside from the recognition that comes with premiering at such a well-known festival, does being a winner at Cannes actually make a film a winner at the box-office? Or is Cannes just another place for Hollywood’s best and brightest to hobnob with each other.
Since its humble founding in 1946 to promote equality between participating countries, the invitation-only event has become the most highly publicized film festival in the world. Today, it is a mix of internationally recognized stars, renowned filmmakers, top producers, and a slew of others that make up the Who’s Who in the industry, all together for two weeks in the French Riviera. Although Cannes is known as much for the glitzy red carpets and stunning locale as for the films, the festival is also a huge marketplace with producers and film executives coming from all over the world looking for the next big thing.
Last year, Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein went to the festival with that mindset and left with the rights to the universally praised The Artist. The film won a plethora of awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture and a Palm D'Or for Best Actor for the lead Jean Dujardin. This is quite a rare feat considering few films shown at Cannes even make it overseas, let alone make an impact on American audiences. Like Weinstein, big and small-name production companies alike flock to Cannes looking for the magic movie that will lead to big bucks at the box office. However, there is no easy way to predict what will become the big film of the year, because if it does well internationally it does not always mean it will do well domestically (and vice-versa).
Winning a Palme D’Or does not always translate to commercial success. In the past 25 years, out of the 25 winners of the Palme D’Or, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest grossing; it earned $120 million domestically in 2004. The next biggest hit among the Palm D'Or winners was Pulp Fiction back in 1994, which brought in a little over $100 million. The past two Palme D’Or winners of 2011, The Tree of Life and Uncle Bommee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, have only made a combined total of less than $13.5 million. Compared to this year’s The Avengers, which has already made $1 billion, that’s nothing. With so much emphasis on the profitability of a film rather than its artistic brilliance, it is not unreasonable to wonder if films like Uncle Bommee will continue to be seen outside of the festival.
As for now, many critics and industry insiders are predicting that this year's illusive award will go to the French film, Rust and Bone (De Rouille et D’Os) and with all the buzz surroudning Moonrise Kingdom, there’s hope that domestic audiences will come out to see these quality films. If not, Madagascar 3—which also made its debut at Cannes—will be coming to a theater near you soon.
The Cannes Film Festival will continue until May 27.