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May 24, 2018

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On the Cannes 2018 Press Screening Schedule

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This year, for the first time at Cannes Film Festival, critics saw films either at the same time as the Gala premieres or the morning after. Festival chief Thierry Frémaux emphasized that the festival was about the Gala premieres above anything else.

The decision was met with a lot of mixed reaction.

The Pros

On the pro side, many empathized with the filmmakers and actors whose experience at previous festivals was soured due to negative early press. Previously, reviews would come out shortly after the press screening, detailing how many people walked out or how people boo-ed. By the time that the official premiere took place the same night, filmmakers and actors would already have the weight of negative reviews hanging over them. Deadline’s Pete Hammond, a Cannes veteran and long-time journalist was one of many that expressed his support for the decision at the start of the festival.

The Cons

Those against it, mostly members of press, argued that the change would negatively impact the those working to cover the festival and films. The French Syndicate of Cinema Critics and the International Federation of Film Critics even issued letters in protest that detailed how press would be able to see fewer films, have less time to write detailed, thoughtful articles, and that the chosen theatre for press screenings had a capacity that would hold only a quarter of the 4,000 members of the accredited press. Some journalists went on to say that they would have to forgo conducting interviews during the festival to ensure that they had time to screen the films and write their pieces.

Afterthoughts

By having the screenings occur simultaneously, the festival hoped to ensure that the voices of filmmakers, press, and the public attendees had an equal chance to voice their opinions, and prevent situations where a viral negative review set the tone for the film before the official premiere.

Did the schedule change make a difference in the end? Negative press about films still hit during the world premieres and in the days after. This year, halfway into the premiere of Lars von Trier’s new filmtweets were already going viral about how dozens of people had walked out of the theatre due to depictions of graphic violence.

From public perception, not much seems to have changed. It may not spark a trend with other festivals, but it does raise a question about where their priorities lie, between the industry, filmmakers, press and the public.

Did you attend the festival this year? Was your work or experience impacted by the changes in press screening schedules? Let us know what you thought at our Facebook or Twitter page!

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