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Fest opens d’Or date

Cannes kudos may shift to Saturday night

PARIS — Clearly looking to innovate after sharp criticism of last year’s event, the Cannes Film Festival may move its prize-giving ceremony forward a day to Saturday, May 22.

Traditionally, the Palme d’Or and other awards have been handed out during the closing-night ceremony on a Sunday, the fest’s last day.

But because many people have left town and the festival is winding down, the evening has tended to be anticlimactic.

Managing director Veronique Cayla confirmed Thursday that the organization is contemplating a change of date — while keeping a closing-night soiree on Sunday.

“We’re thinking about it,” Cayla told Daily Variety. “We are talking it over with Canal Plus and will decide in the next couple of weeks.”

The French paybox, a partner of the festival, produces the opening and closing ceremonies and broadcasts them live and unencrypted on its French premium channel.

Wider coverage sought

Cayla would not go into the reasons that the fest, which runs May 12-23, may shift the ceremony — but improving international media coverage is understood to be the major one.

Holding the ceremony on a Sunday night means missing out on a spread in the Sunday papers. That’s less important in France, where few people read a Sunday paper. But newspapers in the U.K. and the U.S. have a wide Sunday readership. The time difference with France would facilitate international media coverage of a Saturday night event.

A change of date also would keep fest attendance up through to the end.

After a grueling week and a half of movies, meetings and latenight parties, many exhausted festgoers don’t stick around until Sunday night, skipping out of town Friday or Saturday.

Those who do stay tend to give the Croisette a wide berth Saturday night and head for restaurants out of town.

Friday-night official screenings, though, have often produced Palme d’Or winners. Both Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” were shown on a Friday night.

After last year’s heavy criticism of the fest and its selection, organizers are keen to change things this year.

In an early move to ensure star power during its opening stretch, “Shrek 2” — voiced by Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas and Rupert Everett — will screen in Competition May 15.

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