Will Hollywood Hit Cannes? ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Weigh Festival Debuts

Will Hollywood decamp for Cannes this year?

Organizers for the annual celebration of all things cinema certainly hope so, though their ambitions could collide with a new spirit of economizing that’s making studios hesitant about shelling out the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to pull off a Riviera bow. Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux has barely gotten over his jet lag after a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles this month, but he’s already planning a return visit as he attempts to pull together one of the most formidable lineups in the 76-year history of the event. He’s made it clear to studio executives that he would love to highlight both their blockbusters and their awards contenders, and though formal offers have not been made or accepted, this year’s Cannes has the potential to match or even surpass the 2022 edition — which played host to Tom Cruise and “Top Gun: Maverick” and Austin Butler and Tom Hanks with “Elvis” — in movie star moments.

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Apple is weighing sending Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” to the festival, and with it a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons. Focus is expected to hit the Croisette with Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.” The ensemble film boasts a cavalcade of stars, including Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton. Anderson, who has an apartment in Paris, was in Cannes 2021 with “The French Dispatch,” which played in competition. His “Moonrise Kingdom” opened the festival and competed in 2012.

What of the other major summer movies? In 2008, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and the filmmaking team of Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas staged the titular archaeologist’s return to the big screen by unveiling the movie at Cannes. Disney, which is releasing the latest sequel, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” is considering a return trip for Ford and company.

And Warner Bros. has discussed sending Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, but the film is more likely to launch nearer to Barbie’s Malibu home. Even if the studio skips the fest, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will touch down in France. He’s hosting a dinner at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc with former Vanity Fair editor and current Air Mail chief Graydon Carter.

Some movies won’t make the transatlantic journey. After “Oppenheimer” cast member Matthew Modine tweeted a poster of the movie with the hashtag #Cannes2023, speculation that the Christopher Nolan feature would debut at the festival intensified. However, Modine quickly deleted his message, and insiders say that “Oppenheimer” will likely premiere somewhere else and closer to its July release date.

While American movies are traditionally the first to be secured for Cannes, some international films are also rumored to be in the mix, notably “Monster” by Palme d’Or-winning Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, as well as “How Do You Live?,” the first feature film in more than a decade from animation master Hayao Miyazaki.

Then there’s Pedro Almodóvar’s short film “Strange Way of Life” with Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, and several French movies, including Maïwenn’s “Jeanne du Barry,” which features Johnny Depp as King Louis XV. Other likely Cannes titles include Palme d’Or-winning Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “About Dry Grasses.”

When it comes to securing a Cannes berth, studio executives say that Frémaux wields outsize influence on the U.S. titles. Festivals such as Toronto or Sundance rely more on teams of programmers, but the Cannes chief seems to be the most important and final word on what studio films screen at the oceanside fest. In March, Cannes will begin notifying talent if they have made the cut.

For those studios that snag an invite, a Cannes debut allows them to command global attention. In the case of “Top Gun: Maverick,” a celebration of the U.S. Air Force that was seen as more of a domestic play, premiering at Cannes helped the studio introduce the film to European audiences. Not only was Cruise on hand, but the event also included an aerial display for the ages, as French fighter jets took to the sky streaming blue, white and red smoke. It worked. “Top Gun: Maverick” went on to make more than $770 million internationally, more than half its nearly $1.5 million global gross.

In the past, some studios were hesitant to open in Cannes, because it felt too far removed from the fall Oscar season. But that stance has softened. Although it takes place months before many of the biggest awards shows, Cannes has proven to be a strong showcase for potential Oscar contenders. Not only did “Parasite” open at the festival en route to its best picture victory, but three best picture nominees this year — “Elvis,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Triangle of Sadness” — all debuted at the 2022 festival.

A larger concern, studio sources say, is the cost of attending Cannes. For a splashy premiere, the price tag can climb to more than $1 million. That’s because A-list stars usually fly private and have glam teams that often must be ferried to the festival. Stars can bring one to two guests on the studio dime and a personal publicist, but that number is fungible, and the bigger the actor, the larger the retinue of handlers and hangers-on. And the parties themselves are also eye-wateringly expensive, with venues and caterers tacking on steep charges the second they hear the words “Cannes premiere.” Given that most entertainment companies are laying off staff and looking for ways to rein in spending as they glance worriedly toward a potential recession, those are checks that studios are wary of writing.

“The farther away an event is, the higher the costs,” says one film publicist. “And Cannes is about as far away and about as expensive as it gets.”

Matt Donnelly and Manori Ravindran contributed to this report. 

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