Cannes will kick kudos to Sunday

Fest meet-and-greet opens Cannes of worms

PARIS — A year after bringing its closing ceremony forward to Saturday night, the Cannes Film Festival is pushing it back to Sunday for next year’s event, which runs May 17-28.

Fest prexy Gilles Jacob said timing pressures explained the change of plan, which will return an extra evening to competition screenings.

“People attending the festival complained that the competition schedule was too tight a squeeze,” Jacob said Wednesday.

A jury press briefing initiated for the first time last year will take place on Sunday at the same time as the closing-night film.

Meanwhile, artistic director Thierry Fremaux said the growing number of films pitched to the festival means he will start selecting a month earlier this year. “It used to be Jan. 15, now it’s Dec. 15,” he said.

But there is nothing the organizers can do about space pressures at the fest’s Cannes venue, the Palais des Festivals.

A $60 million extension to the Palais, complete with a new 500-seat movie theater, was to have opened in time for the festival’s 60th anniversary in 2007.

But the recent discovery that part of the soil in its seafront site along the Croisette wasn’t impermeable to water has sent architects back to the drawing board.

Project would take twice as long to build and cost at least $10.8 million more.

David Lisnard, president of the company that manages the Palais des Festivals, told Daily Variety: “If we had gone ahead with it, there would have been a great big hole in the Croisette during the festival’s anniversary celebrations. That was unacceptable.”

News of the closing-night change and Palais woes came Wednesday during a meet-and-greet with the fest’s new managing director, Catherine Demier.

She replaces Veronique Cayla, who ankled in July to head the Centre National de la Cinematographie.

A top-ranking civil servant whose previous job was at the Cour des Comptes, France’s highest auditing body, Demier said one of the first things she did on her arrival at the fest was to inspect its accounts.

“I can tell you the festival is well managed and financially healthy,” she announced.

However, like other nonprofit associations in France, the fest is gearing up to deal with a new financial constraint — commercial tax. Levy could affect 25% of the festival’s earnings from partners and sponsors.

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