Cannes archetype: The showman

A history of the festival prototype

Sam Spiegel was credited with being Cannes’ first true showman. His 165-foot yacht, Malahne, became a fixture in the bay, its decks always stocked with rising young starlets.

In the ’70s, Lew Grade had his annual seances, and horror king Sam Arkoff his Hotel du Cap luncheons. And by the early ’80s, Cannon Films’ Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were buying thousands of pages of trade ads and throwing parties to match.

That decade also saw the rise of the banner-towing planes, pioneered by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind for the 1978 release of “Superman,” but used to most spectacular effect by the duo in 1991. While Ridley Scott, agent John Ptak, producer Alain Goldman and sales agent Patrick Wachsberger were celebrating their just-announced “1492” at a villa in Mougins, the Salkinds serenaded them with a 23-plane salute, trumpeting rival pic “Christopher Columbus.”

By the mid-’90s, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, tubthumping their Miramax lineup, marked the last of Cannes’ more recent great showmen, though with the rise of private equity financing, the past few years have seen the yacht tradition continued by pic investors such as Microsoft’s Paul Allen and Oracle’s Larry Ellison. Last year, Ellison’s the Rising Sun, the world’s largest private yacht, dropped anchor to help promote “Flyboys.”

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