“Many people changed their minds at the last minute and decided to come to Cannes,” said Jerome Paillard, executive manager of the Cannes Market, the business wing of the Cannes Film Festival. Those that did will have access to a large volume of new films making their market premieres.

Paillard explained that the pre-Cannes online market held two weeks ago was necessary because it filled the gap between Berlin and Cannes. But he says that the Pre-Cannes Screenings do not detract from the physical Cannes Market, which kicked off on Tuesday.

“We have 300 films showing physically and online that were not in the Pre-Cannes Screenings. People here are not complaining, even if the days are longer than normal and they have to do a mixture of Zoom and physical meetings,” Paillard said. He expects 700 in-person market screenings, complemented by 500 online sessions.

The market this year counts approximately 10,000 registrations, and between 50%-60% of those will be in Cannes. “Some people have really fought to be here and endured very difficult journeys,” said Paillard.

The biggest absentees are from Latin America, Oceania, Australia and Asia with China a substantial part of that count. Although mainland China has very few independent sales companies, many Chinese executives attend the market as producers and buyers, a high enough number that in 2019 China accounted for the fifth-largest national delegation at Cannes. “They are not happy about conducting business online. That may be a language, culture or other problem,” said Paillard.

Many Asian countries currently have much lower levels of COVID-19 vaccinations than Europe and the U.S., a factor which would make travel to Cannes dangerous for Asian executives. And many Asian territories still operate strict border controls and lengthy quarantine periods, which would make executives’ return journeys onerous.

In contrast, and despite many American companies proclaiming to skip the market, some 500 U.S. delegates are registered. “Most of the expected U.S. companies managed to send at least one person. There were a lot of last-minute changes and late decisions to come,” said Paillard.

The market’s physical structures nevertheless show signs of the ravages that COVID has inflicted.

Corridors in the Riviera building and in the basement of the Palais du Festival have widened as sales booths have become fewer and smaller. In the tented International Village, many Asian territories are absent – notably India, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan – and have opted for virtual structures instead.

To accommodate changes to the Cannes Market’s still-expanding conference program, it has constructed three physical stages each capable of housing hybrid conferences that combine physically present and virtual participants.

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Inside the Cannes Riviera Building Patrick Frater

Paillard says he expects market participants to quickly adapt to this year’s new health control and security measures. “It is unfortunate that even visitors from green zone countries have to take the virus tests [every 48 hours]. This is because of the incompatibility of health systems.” Metal detectors at some entrances to the market have been replaced with state-of-the-art scanners that permit guests to walk through quicker without turning out pockets and bags, and allowing multiple parallel scanning.