Cost of entry

We take a fictitious film to Cannes and come back a half mil lighter

This article was updated on May 17, 2005.

It’s no secret that the slings and arrows of promoting even a modestly budgeted movie at the Cannes Film Festival can cost outrageous fortunes.

Never mind Fox’s two-day press junket on the beach slated for “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” not to mention a blowout party rumored to nudge towards a seven-digit price tag.

Forget the roughly $800,000 Sony Pictures Releasing Intl. is kicking in for its three-day press junket and to co-host MTV’s party for “Kung Fu Hustle,” a movie that will boast one of the most stunt-crazed Croisette parades ever, as a kickoff to its June rollout in Europe.

And ignore this year’s Cannes publicity coup: the Cunard Line parking its Queen Mary 2 in the harbor to promote a one-day event that’s not even film-related. No, we’re talking about promoting your average Cannes fest or market movie at less than half of the above-mentioned outlays.

So, just what does it cost — in dollars and your overall stress level — to fund a campaign at Cannes?

To analyze this, we’ve invented a $15 million American film and put it in a non-competitive official selection slot at this year’s festival (apologies to fest artistic director Thierry Fremaux).

This modest kitchen-sink mystery spills onto Cannes shores with a posse of two producers, one director and two B-level stars (one female, one male, both divas) for a three-day press junket.

Since there’s no U.S. distributor on board yet to help front the outrageous expenses, long nights of transatlantic bickering have resulted in the producers, the French distributor and the international sales company equally splitting the campaign’s $585,000 budget (see some of the cost breakdowns at right) and prep work.

“Too bad you’re not a studio,” teases Sony Pictures Releasing Intl.’s senior veep marketing Sal Ladestro, who is heading up the “Hustle” junket. “We already have a French-speaking team in Paris, which does all the line work, so everything’s softened up when I arrive.”

With no Paris team except one testy distributor, the only thing “softened” in this junket are the producers’ wallets — from overuse.

AIRFARE: Our B-level movie clique has A-level aspirations for air travel, at first booking a Gulfstream IV jet from Hollywood staple Trans-Exec Aviation to wing them from L.A. to Nice roundtrip. Our more frugal distributor and sales company nix this $150,000 fantasy and shuttles the gang to the Delta terminal at LAX instead. “But with an entourage this small you’re still saving 90,000 bucks even flying first class,” notes international publicity vet Nikki Parker, who now operates out of Rogers & Cowan’s L.A. office.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Since our movie didn’t nab a competition slot, we don’t get the “festival deal” of three free nights for two stars and a director at a top hotel. Our producers finally find a “cheap rate” at about 500 euros a day per person at the refurbished Martinez, but the Divas are offended and each finagle a suite at 1,400 euros a day (no butler).

“It could have been worse,” reports Gary Mansour, chief of the full-service agency Mansour Travel. “They could have spent 3,600 euros a day to shack up at the Eden Roc’s four-bedroom villa on the lawn.”

Mansour is one of the two top block-bookers of Cannes hotels, along with publicity powerhouse Dennis Davidson & Associates. Each company controls and books upwards of 100 rooms out of the roughly 1,600 available in the top six hotels, and even our producers knew to hire them to swing the best deals.

Mansour, in fact, offered to reserve five rooms at the Du Cap for our fictitious entourage and was ready to wire the obligatory $175,000 cash deposit in January, but our distributor “down-marketed” (his term) to the Croisette instead. Later he pays the requisite brokerage fee of one day’s room rate for each reservation and is heard to remark, “Quel’extortion!”

“Actually, it’s quite fair when we’re the ones stuck taking the risk if the reservation is cancelled,” explains DDA’s vice chairman Chris Paton.

CARS: Even our euro-pinching distributor is sensible enough to book five 500-euro limos from for the roundtrip from Nice to Cannes. Once on the Croisette, our group rents luxury sedans at a daily rate of 750 euros per car. Daily 100 euro tips for the drivers are extra, as is the Dom Perignon the director stashes in the back seat.
— CAR TOTAL $10,675

HEAVIES: Charles McDonald of the veteran London PR firm McDonald & Rutter suggests we try one of the bodyguard brand leaders, Palazzi or Special Treats. We like the sound of the latter and hire two beefy guys per star at the “special” price of 2,000 euros for our two days of press interviews and photo calls, gratuities not included.

GREASE: DDA’s Chris Paton notes that veteran Cannes goers will pack $300-$400 every day to lubricate their way “past doormen, maitre d’s, chauffeurs, errand boys” and the rest of the fest’s discreet phalanx of open hands. Cannes, after all, is less about Palms d’Ors than palms at the doors.

SHIPPING & ADS: Our French distributor deems our movie’s U. S. poster “une horreur” and insists the producers pay for redesigning and printing a new one for Cannes, at a cost of 10,000 euros. Franco-American relations take a dive.

Next, the producers insist our movie’s billboard be placed at the Croisette’s prime (and most expensive) location, next to the Majestic’s front gate. Result: 20,000 euros vanish to produce and erect the opus, and another 20,000 euros to book the space via the top Cannes ad booker, Fair Set. Relations dive again.

Our distributor, however, is only too happy spend 10,000 euros to hire a “very French” press attaché as our Palais liaison. McDonald says that these attachés provide “cool heads and professionalism, which your fictitious team could surely use.”

PRESS: For 3,000 euros our publicist rents a room for a day at the Majestic and hires the U.K.’s Junket Prods. for 20,000 euros (to do tech setups). That night’s press party for 250 on the beach features a catered Chinese buffet. But at 150 euros a head, the only thing cheap about this bash is the champagne, which vanishes quickly. We strategically schedule our 1,000 euro Olympia press screening immediately afterwards.

GROOMING: Our starlet insists on hair and makeup “artists” costing 8,000 euros a day, while our producers book a 1,000 euro hairdresser for our male diva, even though his head is shaved.

THE BASH: Our producers book our movie’s big VIP party the same night (May 14) as the “Kung Fu Hustle” bash. As Chow & Co. get treated to music from Cannes jury prez Emir Kusturica and his band at the luxurious Le Palais Oriental villa, our party suffers an Edith Piaf clone singing off-key under a tent.

Our distrib calls it “a e150,000 insult to French culture,” but when the Dom flows, Franco-American relations revive once again, and everyone forgets the night quicker than the memories of our movie’s mixed reviews.
— BASH TOTAL $195,000