The Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film is gearing up for a 6% hike in attendance with numbers expected to hit close to 15,000 participants, according to projections revealed by Executive Director Guillaume Esmiol in the run-up to its opening on May 14.

“We’ll only have the exact number at the end of the market but for now we’re looking at an increase of more than 6%,” predicts Esmiol, on the basis of a rise in registrations ahead of the market kick-off.

“Last year we announced the record breaking attendance of just over 14,000 attendees. I expect we’re going to break that record again to be not far off 15,000.”

Around 4,000 feature films and projects from 140 territories will be on offer, with screening staking place in 33 venues, while the market will also host 200 different events, including 70 conferences, across its nine days running from May 14 to 22.

While the AFM, Toronto and even the Berlinale’s European Film Market have struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels of attendance, Cannes has gone from strength to strength.

“After the pandemic, we were asking whether people would come back to the market. Now it’s a question of how we are going to welcome all these people?,” says Esmiol, who is in his second edition running the market solo, having succeeded Jérome Paillard last year.

Amid the rising numbers, the market is introducing fast-track channels for buyers and sellers to enable them easy access in and out of the Palais.

“They’ll have a marker on their badge allowing them to go faster, but I think we already managed to improve the flow into the Palais last year with the automatic metal detector system.”

In other initiatives aimed at buyers and sellers, the market will reprise the Bistrot du Lérins, which launched last year, offering an exclusive space for exhibitors to hold business lunches inside the Palais, while another alternative will be the revamped Plage des Palmes on the Plage de Goeland.

“We’re also launching a happy hour in the lounge area in the Palais [The Viewpoint] as a space for sellers and buyers to chill a little bit after a busy day,” says Esmiol.

Guillaume Esmiol

Guillaume Esmiol

MDF

Once again, this edition has been put together against a backdrop of rising costs, even if global inflation has slowed down in recent months.

“Last year, it was a bit of a shock because we were dealing with a 40% rise in energy costs,” says Esmiol, who says the hike led the market to audit and reconfigure its electricity use.

The rising costs have led to an increase in market badge fees, by around 4%, but Esmiol insists the price remains competitive in comparison with other markets.

“We didn’t want to put this burden only on the sales companies by increasing screening or stand prices. Many of these companies are still trying to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business. It didn’t feel fair,” says Esmiol.

“We still have the lowest price compared to most the big markets, so we had some margin there,” he adds.

Esmiol says the booming Marché du Film attendance stats are not necessarily indicative of a wider uptick on the film market circuit, suggesting the event may have been a beneficiary of companies reining in international travel.

“A few companies are telling me that they have less budget but they’re putting this budget into Cannes,” he says.

As per recent norms, the U.S. will be the biggest territory by attendance, accounting for 18% of registered participants, followed by France at 16% and then the UK, with Germany, Italy and Spain also out in force.

Esmiol expects extra U.S. activity at the market in the wake of the Hollywood strikes.

“While Thierry (Frémaux) was saying it had an impact on the number of U.S. films that were available for the festival, conversely in the market, we’re expecting there to be more U.S. projects, because they were on hold due to strikes and are now going to be available in Cannes,” he says.

He also notes the strong presence of smaller European territories that punch above their weight in the international film biz.

“You have some countries that are very small in size but that are very active like Belgium, Netherlands. Switzerland,” he says.

Switzerland is the market’s country of honor this year, following in the wake of Spain last year and India in 2022.

The showcase will focus on Switzerland’s prowess in innovation and technology as well as its co-production know-how. The territory is involved in around 80 features productions a year, 43% of which are co-productions.

Other territories out in force include Canada, South Korea and Japan.

There has been talk of late that Asia has decoupled from the international film scene in the wake of the pandemic, with its professionals focusing more on home territories and regional partnerships.

Esmiol says this trend is not born out in Asian attendance which is back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Already last year we felt a huge comeback from Asian countries. Japan was up plus 10%, and South Korea was up plus 16%. If they’re coming to Cannes, it’s to connect with the international business,” he says.

One Asian territory lagging behind is China, although numbers are up on last year.

“In 2022, there were practically no Chinese professionals, apart from those living in Europe. Last year, there were around 250, which was a nice surprise. There will be 250 to 300 this year, but it’s still off pre-pandemic levels when it was 600 to 650.”

Alongside its long-running Spotlight Asia initiative, the market is launching the new Asian IP Showcase, presenting original Asian IPs spanning performing arts, animated series, graphic novels and video games suitable for feature film adaptations.

Other new initiatives include the Cannes Remakes day aimed at fostering remake opportunities for European feature films that have proven successful in their home territories.

Titles in the inaugural line-up include Audrey Dana’s Men On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, Stéphane Castang’s Vincent Must Die, Gerardo Herrero’s Under Therapy and Gianluca Ansanelli’s The War of The Grandpas.

The market will also roll out the second edition of its Investors Circle aimed at connecting 10 feature film projects with high-net worth investors. Filmmakers presenting their projects will include Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund, with upcoming airplane disaster movie The Entertainment System is Down.

These two initiatives are part of a concerted move by the Marché du Film to do more to support professionals at the project stage.

“The Marché du Film essentially revolves around three poles: the market for completed films, which is our core business; the project market, then there’s our role as a B2B platform, with our conferences helping professionals get up to speed with key topics,” says Esmiol.

On the B2B program front, one highlight for Esmiol, who began his career in business development and digital media innovation, is a partnership with Microsoft, which is a sponsor of the wider festival for the first time this year.

The company will be present in the market with the Microsoft Café on Majestic beach where the focus will be AI and how it is set to impact the film business.

“They’re bringing in experts and case studies of where AI used in cinema. They won’t be afraid to look at some of the more difficult questions on the table like the impact of AI on jobs and the implications for rights,” says Esmiol.



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