There are 20 films being screened in the official competition at Cannes. But there’s an unofficial competition among pics being screened in incomplete form. And their numbers are growing.
A 20-minute promo reel from Oliver Stone‘s “World Trade Center” is expected to screen at the 1,000-seat Debussy Theater. Footage from Irwin Winkler‘s “Home of the Brave” will be shown in the Olympia Screening Room.
And a 20-minute segment of Bill Condon‘s “Dreamgirls” will also be screened. Such showcase events have become increasingly popular at Cannes. Distribs regard the fest as a hospitable environment for films that need the careful positioning that a conventional wide release just doesn’t afford.
The trend gathered steam after New Line brought 20 minutes of “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” to the 2001 fest. That screening sparked a word-of-mouth campaign for Peter Jackson‘s trilogy that helped it become a worldwide smash. Miramax Films’ followed with its much-buzzed about big-budget epic “Gangs of New York,” which also went over well.
Sometimes the footage is accompanied by irresistible stunt-photo ops, such as Jack Black diving into the ocean from a giant motorized shark for “Shark’s Tale.”
But Cannes attention comes with no guarantees. Reaction was tepid when Jerry Bruckheimer let distribs in Cannes take a sneak peek at his action epic “Armageddon” in 1998 (but the pic turned out to be a smash).
The following year, Julie Taymor‘s “Titus” footage was met with silence.
Usually, the combo of press and distribs tends to provide a congenial atmosphere for a film by a prominent director that might otherwise be tricky to market. It can also be a tool for damage control.
Last year, when Harvey and Bob Weinstein were in the midst of securing financing for their post-Miramax venture, the duo came to Cannes with 20 minutes (that number again) of Terry Gilliam‘s “The Brothers Grimm.”
Long-gestating pic had been beleaguered by bad buzz, and the Weinsteins wanted to show off that its special f/x were up to snuff.
The pic eked out $105 million — but earned $67 million of that overseas.