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French Critics’ Guild Protests Cannes’ Press Screenings Change

The Cannes Film Festival’s decision to scrap morning press screenings ahead of gala premieres has received a chilly reception from the guild of French film critics (Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinema).

In a letter issued Monday, the guild said that festival chief Thierry Fremaux should have explored other solutions to cater to filmmakers’ sensibilities during their gala premieres – for instance, imposing timed embargoes on reviews. Instead, Fremaux’s plan to have critics watch the film in an adjacent auditorium at the same time as the evening premiere unspools is impractical, the guild said, since the Debussy theater seats 1,068 and the festival hosts 4,000 accredited critics.

In previous years, critics could attend three different matinee screenings of a film ahead of its red-carpet premiere in the evening. The guild said that those who can’t get in to the 7 p.m. premiere-hour screening in the Debussy would have to wait for press screenings at 10 p.m. or the following day. “When will they write their articles?” the guild said.

The French critics’ organization is particularly concerned about films that have their gala premieres even later in the evening, at 10 p.m. “The press screening will be at 8:30 a.m. on the following day, and that will obviously lead to delays in publishing [reviews]: at best two days after the official screening for print publications, and one day for other outlets,” said the guild. In addition, the new policy will lead “some journalists to renounce conducting interviews and do them before having seen the films [or even encourage] publications to reduce their editorial coverage of the festival by sending fewer journalists and critics.”

In an interview with Variety last week after the new screening policy was announced, Fremaux said he could “wait 24 hours to read an article in a newspaper in print.”

“I belong to the generation that respects the press and doesn’t think a tweet is the same thing as a serious article published by a critic,” he said.

Fremaux also said the changes to the screenings schedule aimed at putting the “gala evenings and red carpet back at the heart of the festival.”

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