The normally bustling streets and boulevards of Los Angeles have been quieter than usual this week, after Hollywood’s studio executives fled the city for the Cannes Film Festival.
With an abundance of red-carpet premieres and an array of screen stars, the festival, which began on Wednesday, has always been among the more glamorous events in the movie calendar.
But with Hollywood’s focus increasingly shifting away from the US and towards international markets, Cannes has also become more strategically important.
The US remains the world’s most lucrative box-office market.
Growth, however, has stalled, so studios have begun marketing their movies in international territories that were once only an afterthought, such as Russia and South Korea.
Cannes attracts more international distributors, buyers, and members of the media than any other festival.
The festival has become a critical launch pad for films Hollywood studios hope will become global blockbusters.
“Over the years the international box office has grown in relation to the [US] domestic box office,” says Andrew Cripps, president of Paramount Pictures International, the studio’s new international distribution arm. “Cannes has grown in importance as the international box-office has grown in importance.”
The festival’s timing, coming before the busy summer movie-going season, “is perfect,” he adds.
Last year, Sony Pictures Entertainment used Cannes to launch The Da Vinci Code, while 20th Century Fox premiered X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Despite mixed critical receptions at Cannes, both films were among the year’s biggest international box-office successes.
This year, Warner Bros’ Ocean’s 13 will be the most high-profile US movie to premiere in Cannes. Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, will also be in town to promote Bee Movie, an animated comedy being made by DreamWorks Animation.
Hollywood has not always viewed Cannes as a promotional opportunity. Studios used to come to the festival hoping to acquire scripts, as well as half-finished and completed films.
Although the festival remains a working event with deals being struck across the city, the companies doing deals are more likely to be smaller independent production groups than Hollywood studios.
“Most of the time these decisions [about which movies to make] have already been made,” says Tomas Jegeus, co-president of 20th Century Fox International.
The festival serves another purpose, however.
In many international markets, locally produced films regularly outperform US-made movies at the box-office.
Hollywood has picked up on this trend and with its studios increasingly seeking to invest in local language productions, Cannes has become the ideal meeting place.
Although the cost of producing films has increased, new investors are being attracted to the industry by the potential of the international market.
Spider-Man 3, which reached screens this month, broke box-office records in the US, where it generated $151m in its opening weekend.
But the film’s international performance was more impressive. Relatively immature theatrical markets such as South Korea, Mexico and Brazil propelled the film’s non-US take to $231m.