HOLLYWOOD — DreamWorks believes in the philosophy once expressed by “Batman’s” the Joker: “Commence au festival!”
In just five years of theatrical releasing, the company has displayed uncommon savvy at using film fests such as Cannes and Toronto to launch successful pics.
Its latest bid for buzz is this year’s Cannes, where “Hollywood Ending” and “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” will be screened.
The opening-night competish screening of “Hollywood” will also feature an appearance by Woody Allen, his first trip to the Croisette since 1987. (One joke late in the film offers a clue as to why the historically press-averse Allen decided to come, though, of course, Terry Press of DreamWorks can be plenty persuasive.)
“Spirit” will be a non-competition outdoor event with live music performed during the pic by Bryan Adams and composer Hans Zimmer. The perf is an extended version of gigs the pair have played Stateside over a reel’s worth of footage in advance of the pic’s May 24 bow.
The Cannes imprimatur can also convey the impression that a toon is not just for kiddies, as “Spirit” looks to cross over to an audience older than very young girls.
Sometimes, fests can be the first stop on a victory tour. DreamWorks’ “American Beauty,” for example, rode great buzz from Toronto into a stellar September platform release and then, six months later, five Oscars.
The company’s “Almost Famous,” however, sought to recapture that magic and came up short. The widely admired pic drew many good notices in Toronto, but then stumbled badly at the domestic B.O.
Pics travel abroad
Cannes is its own beast, however, as many pics that have already played out in the U.S. screen anew for global auds. Plus, plenty of soon-to-be-classics without distribution win praise and awards. Everything runs differently on French time.
As a commercial-minded company that generally skips Sundance and views fests primarily as a B.O. driver, DreamWorks has tended to synchronize attention in Cannes with the U.S. launch.
A year ago, such was the case with “Shrek.” It secured a global beachhead with a competition screening at Cannes, becoming the first U.S. toon at the fest since “Peter Pan.” The pic’s U.S. bow was set for May — as is the case with “Spirit” (May 24) and “Hollywood Ending” (May 3).
“I thought it’d be fun to have a little diversion” from more traditional fest screenings, said Jeffrey Katzenberg at last year’s “Shrek” event, which enabled festgoers still angst-ridden over Palme D’Or winner “The Son’s Room” to cut loose a bit.
Animated diversions are DreamWorks’ metier, so it is not surprising that “Spirit” will be the company’s third toon to go the fest route. “Antz” had its world preem in Toronto in 1998.