The inns and outs of Cannes

Hotels hustling as crowd thins at film festival

If hotel capacity is any gauge, this year’s Cannes film fest looks to be a lot less crowded.

A month before the start of the fest, most key hotels along the Croisette — including the Majestic, Carlton, Palais Stephanie (the former Noga Hilton), Grand and Martinez — still have rooms available. And — sacre bleu! — some are even dropping their mandatory 12-night minimum stays during the run of the festival.

In any other recent year, trying to book a room at this late date would elicit howls of laughter, or at least a firm “non” from the reservation desk at the Hotel Majestic. With the shortest walk to fest and market venues and the best view of the famous red-carpeted steps of the Palais, the Majestic is perpetually the earliest booked property in Cannes.

But last week a booking request for 10 rooms wasn’t immediately shot down. Even with some 30 rooms out of commission due to construction at the hotel, there’s still availability during the fest.

According to a Majestic clerk, there have been a slew of cancellations from budget-pinched American customers (deposits non-refundable, of course).

And the Majestic is not alone. All the major hotels, along with smaller ones, are feeling the pinch.

Perhaps anticipating the situation amid the dismal state of the economy, fest organizers this year have made special overtures to Cannes hoteliers and restaurateurs, asking them to be flexible and cordial to festgoers.

But while attitudes might be a bit more accommodating, prices don’t seem to be any friendlier: Rooms at the Majestic start at about $9,600 for the 12 days of the fest ($800 a night). The cheapest room at the Carlton is about $970 a night — but the hotel will accept one-night reservations.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of the thinner state of likely fest attendance this year is that the Hotel du Cap is actually still accepting reservations.

The sybaritic cliffside property in nearby Cap d’Antibes — where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed during last year’s confab — still has junior suites available.

For a mere $25,949 upfront, you can still get in for the 12 days of the festival.