Gauls revive affair

Canal Plus returns to Croisette with fervor

PARIS — After cooling to one another in recent years, Canal Plus and the Cannes Film Festival have become an item again.

Having practically disappeared from the Croisette, the Gallic paybox will be back with a vengeance this year with its new primetime show “7.10 PM on the Dot,” broadcast live each evening from the beach.

The French premium channel has also reshuffled its schedule to make way for a series of other fest-themed programs and movies.

Unveiling the Cannes plans at a briefing Monday, Canal Plus Group chief operating officer and channel topper Rodolphe Belmer promised the channel would be “back in force” this year.

“For us it is important to show that we are the partner of the festival — it would be bizarre not for us to be there,” Belmer said. “It is also important that the festival has a powerful relay in France.”

The French paybox has continued to produce and broadcast the fest’s opening and closing night ceremonies. A fresh, three-year deal between Cannes and the channel was inked last year, running until 2006.

Yet few tears were shed among fest organizers when, after years of broadcasting from the beach of the Hotel Martinez, the paybox decided to ax its costly-to-produce Cannes version of flagship talkshow “Nulle Part Ailleurs” in 2001 for something more discreet. At the height of its popularity, the raucous show often drew more buzz and bigger crowds than events going on at the other end of the Croisette — at the Palais des Festivals.

Among other measures taken as part of a wider cost-cutting drive, Canal Plus stopped taking over a Cannes nightclub for the duration of the festival and sent fewer execs to the French Riviera. However, the Canal Plus Group is on a more even keel these days, having slashed its debts and restructured.

At Monday’s briefing, Belmer was coy about how much Canal Plus will spend at Cannes this year, but for its daily broadcasts alone, which will occupy two hours each evening, it will be sending 100 people, compared with 20-30 last year.

As well as “7.10 PM on the Dot,” and “A Day in Cannes,” in which Michel Denisot will interview stars, the channel’s Cannes coverage includes “Cinema du Quartier,” a series of jury president Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films introduced by the helmer.

The premium channel will also program selected Cannes films and documentaries from the past, including fest prexy Gilles Jacob’s “Epreuves d’Artistes,” with highlights from festivals of the past 25 years.

The Italian actress Laura Morante will be mistress of the opening and closing ceremonies at the festival, which runs May 12-23.

The Italian actress Laura Morante will be mistress of the opening and closing ceremonies at the festival, which runs May 12-23.

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