Set to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, the Cannes Film Festival will likely be presided over by a female executive for the first time ever. Variety has confirmed that Iris Knobloch, the former boss of WarnerMedia France, Germany, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland, is well-positioned to succeed Pierre Lescure who was re-elected for a third term in June 2020 and is planning to step down after the upcoming edition.
Knobloch has yet to be elected by the board of directors of the Association Française du Festival International du Film, which brings together public authorities and film industry professionals, but the German-born, Paris-based executive is being pushed forward by high-profile figures within the French government. Those include culture minister Roselyne Bachelot and Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the National Film Board who is still under a formal investigation for an alleged sexual assault, according to the French news website Satellifacts. The vote will take place during the next board meeting.
Although presiding over Cannes is more of an honorary role than an operational one, it requires special skills to navigate the inner politics of the festival and work smoothly alongside Thierry Fremaux, the event’s artistic director and general delegate, on top of helping secure new sponsors. While Fremaux will continue spearheading all creative decisions and discussions with international players and filmmakers, having a former U.S. studio boss like Knobloch as president of Cannes would, in principle, be beneficial to lure more Americans to premiere their films on the Croisette.
Knobloch stepped down from WarnerMedia in June 2021 after a 25-year tenure in various leadership roles. Before leaving the company, she oversaw the strategy as well marketing activities for WarnerMedia France, Benelux, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Shortly after, she launched a $300-million European special purpose acquisition company with powerful backers, including the French billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault who happens to run the luxury brand Kering, which is an official sponsor of Cannes Film Festival. The new company was meant to invest in entertainment and leisure industries.
Prior to Lescure, a resourceful journalist and top-level media executive who co-founded the pay TV group Canal Plus in 1984, Cannes was presided over by Gilles Jacob for 13 years.