Hollywood royalty will be mingling with European royalty at this month’s Monte Carlo Television Festival.
The Hollywood contingent travelling to Monte Carlo — known for its glamorous location, red carpets and press junkets — includes Michael Douglas, who will receive the event’s top award, the Crystal Nymph, from Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Kennedy family scion and Academy Award-nominated documentary maker Rory Kennedy heads the festival’s news jury, and also presents the world premiere of the National Geographic film “Apollo: Missions to the Moon.”
Stars Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union will be in Monte Carlo for the festival’s opening screening of Sony Pictures Television series “L.A.’s Finest.” “SpongeBob SquarePants” will screen at the fest’s Kids & Family Day to mark its 20th anniversary.
Set up in 1961 by Monaco’s Prince Rainier, whose marriage to actress Grace Kelly lent an aura of showbiz glamour to the tiny but wealthy principality, Monte Carlo bills itself as the longest-running TV festival in the world. Albert II, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace’s son, is now the festival’s honorary president.
Festival chief executive Laurent Puons pitches the Monte Carlo Television Festival as “an ideal platform for U.S. studios and digital platforms to present and communicate their shows and talent” to the media and public in Europe.
Series such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Game of Thrones” and, last year, Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” all launched at Monte Carlo.
In recent years, Puons has actively courted digital platforms to showcase their new shows at the festival. On a recent trip to Los Angeles he met with Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Apple.
“Our goal is to welcome not only the U.S. studios but also the digital platforms. It is very important to me,” he says.
It’s an attitude that runs in stark contrast to the troubled relationship that the nearby Cannes Film Festival has with leading digital platform Netflix.
A former professional boxer, Puons took over running the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2012, and heads up a number of other events in Monaco, such as sports media conference Sportel and computer graphics event Imagina.
He’s re-focused the festival so that it is very much public facing. As such it is now different from predominantly business-to-business events such as MipTV, Cannes and the fast-growing Series Mania, which each take place in France within a few months of Monte Carlo.
“We are not in competition with them at all,” Puons says. “Series Mania, for example, is more focused on business. It is open to the public, but not like us. It’s the same with Cannes.”
Indeed, fans are welcome at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. Puons says around 7,000 people, many of them from all over Europe, come to tread the red carpet for screenings. The festival also features autograph signings, meet-the-stars and behind-the-scenes events.
Sony Pictures Television will have a significant presence this year. Talent from its shows “The Good Doctor” and “The Young and the Restless” will attend the event, on top of the opening-night screening of “L.A.’s Finest.”
“The festival provides us with a far-reaching platform to help launch the show and kickstarts our activities with our partners across Europe,” says Mark Young, SPT’s executive VP of distribution and networks for Western Europe.
Elsewhere, talent from CBS and Universal’s “Magnum P.I.” and “FBI,” as well as Showtime’s “Billions” will be there for promotional duties at Monte Carlo, as well as from French shows such as “Plus Bella La Vie” and “Un Si Grand Soleil.”
That’s not to say business isn’t done at Monte Carlo. This year, Puons has established a dedicated business lounge, in association with Variety, at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel.
“It’s a comfortable place for the professionals who attend to meet, discuss and do business,” Puons says.
The heart of the festival, however, remains the competition, which is split into two sections: fiction and news. While Kennedy heads the news section, the fiction category jury is led by Ricky Whittle, star of “American Gods.”
Twenty-eight shows from 17 countries are vying for the festival’s Golden Nymph awards. The drama series category has six projects competing: “Bodyguard” (U.K.), “Killing Eve” (U.K.), “Das Boot” (Germany, Czech Republic), “Moscow Noir” (Sweden), “My Brilliant Friend” (Italy) and “State of Happiness” (Norway).
In the long fiction category, meanwhile, is “A Very English Scandal” (U.K.), “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (U.S.), “Dukla 62” (Czech Republic), “Escape at Dannemora” (U.S.), “Thirst for Life” (France) and “Before the Night” (Italy).
Casting his eye across the festival’s lineup, Puons says the level of TV talent “gets better and better” each year. He points to Alba and Union, who will both tread the red carpet at Monte Carlo for “L.A.’s Finest.”
“There really are no barriers between cinema and TV right now.”