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Screen shutdowns leave mart in lurch

Renamed 'Cannes Market' lacking screen space

PARIS – The squeeze is on at this year’s Cannes Market, the sales event that runs alongside the Cannes Film Festival.

With about 600 films looking for screening space — and buyers — on the Cote D’Azur, the long-awaited closure of the seven-screen Les Ambassades hardtop has left market executive director Jerome Paillard with less space to place the pics.

And while the extension work to the Palais, which includes eight projection facilities, will do much to solve the problem in 2000, Cannes 1999 finds Paillard short of around 100 screenings compared with 1998.

That the situation isn’t worse is because Paillard has succeeded in persuading two of Cannes’ main cinemas, the Star and the Olympia, to give him space for his market clients. The Star has provided him with capacity for 60 screenings to add to the 90 that will take place in the Olympia.

In addition, films in the market will start being shown on the first day of the fest, May 12, 24 hours before normal.

“There is an upside and downside to this year’s situation,” notes Paillard. “Last year we had 120 screenings per day, which was really (the) saturation point. It got to a stage where some films had nobody watching them, which isn’t good for anybody. With about 10% less screening capacity this year, I hope people will start using the screenings more efficiently.”

Now in its 40th year, the market has undergone a name change. Instead of the Marche International du Film (MIF), this year sees the launch of the “Cannes Market.” “The name MIF was causing some confusion between the Mip television market and Mifed. We wanted to stress that the market and Cannes are thoroughly associated,” Paillard says.

With around 5,000 film execs and 1,500 companies expected to be accredited this year — practically in line with 1998 — Paillard says the emphasis is on continuity.

“In the last two years I have concentrated in persuading companies who do business in the hotel rooms, but weren’t accredited to the market, that they should join us. Then we have been bringing people out of the Palais basement and offering them more comfortable tent facilities while we wait for the Palais construction (to be called Riviera) to be completed. Next year, companies will get the full benefit of the new extension.”

Paillard and his team already have started taking orders for space in the new extension. “We aren’t out to force people to abandon their hotel offices, but we have found strong interest from companies wanting to use the new space, with its on-site screening facilities, business club and restaurant. I’d expect about 120 sales companies to use the Riviera,” he says.

Like with most other professional markets, Cannes has launched its own Web site, http://www.cannesmarket.com, in association with Film Finders. “We wanted to come up with a comprehensive tool for sales and acquisition executives,” says Paillard as he clicks on his desktop computer to open the site.

“Sales companies naturally list the films they have available, and in turn they can access buyers and see what kind of films they have recently purchased. Access is free to Cannes Market clients or there’s a 5,000 francs ($830) charge for companies who aren’t signed up to the market.”

For buyers, one of the Web sites’ biggest advantages has been that two weeks prior to the fest opening a complete list of market screenings, including venues and times, is posted. The site also lists addresses and contact numbers in Cannes for buyers and sellers alike. The slight drawback for execs trying to access the Internet from their hotel rooms is that many of the hotels have telephone operating systems that make it a nightmare for online access.

Paillard had hoped for indications that the dramatic Asian economic crisis of the past two years was bottoming out, allowing Asian film execs to make a return to Cannes.

“At this year’s AFM, there were signs that the Asians were beginning to travel again and we have seen a significant increase in the number of Japanese buyers signed up for this year’s Cannes Market, but in other Asian countries, such as South Korea, the indications are still not great.”

That appears to be the story for the Latin Americans and East Europeans as well, Paillard observes. “There is also a problem for independent sales companies, no matter where they are from. It’s getting harder for them to find strong distribution companies to handle their pictures.

“In most territories the top one or two indie distributors have output deals or established relationships with production companies or big groups and don’t need to take too many films from other sources. Selling to a smaller distributor is still an option, but there’s no guarantee they will have the muscle to get exhibitors to carry the film wide.”