Can film economics change Cannes?

Marketplace Staff May 16, 2008
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Can film economics change Cannes?

Marketplace Staff May 16, 2008
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Renita Jablonski: The 61st Cannes Film Festival is underway.
The film industry’s biggest annual event opened this week with plenty of glam, gowns, and carefully crafted poses on the red carpet. But it’s what’s happening behind the scenes that may be losing a little glitz.

Mike Speier is executive editor at Variety, and he’s with us now to talk more about what Cannes can do or not do this time around. Mike, can you run down the differences in this year’s festival?

Mike Speier: There’s a few things different about Cannes this year. Over the past few years, we’ve seen some blockbusters go, but having Indiana Jones, his latest installment, and something like Kung Fu Panda, which is a Dreamworks animation movie there, it just highlights the fact that Cannes isn’t adverse to showing that kind of stuff. They want the attention, they want the stars, they want the red carpet celebrity. Secondly is the economics. There’s fewer companies buying movies, there are specific companies that have shut down recently, like Warner Independent and Picture House. And as for people buying movies, it’s just not the same as it used to be. We’ll see what kind of prices come for movies and who buys what.

Jablonski: What kind of prices are we talking about, can you remind us?

Speier: Yeah, I mean, something at a festival like when there’s a huge bidding war can go up to $10 million. I mean, that would be a movie price that would be totally newsworthy. That’s not to say that’s not going to happen again, but everyone’s a lot more retisent to spend that kind of money, there are fewer companies that can spend that kind of money. And the way we’re seeing movies churned out nowadays in Hollywood, you know, it’s really got to pay off, and you really have to be guarenteed it’s going to pay off.

Jablonski: Well, so how does that work? The fact that there’s less money to play with, yet we’re getting more movies coming at us than ever.

Speier: Yeah, it is mixed messages. On the one hand, we see these huge films being produced, something like the Iron Man, and we see Speed Racer, and we see hundreds of million dollars behind the production and the marketing of movies. And at the same time, people are saying, where’s all the money? It’s drying up. But you have to look at it in terms of the bigger money is being spent on what we call the tent pole movies — the big movies that can really lift all the other boats in the pond.

Jablonski: And is there a Mike Speier recommendation here? Something to look out for?

Speier: Well, Steven Soderbergh, who — he’s a darling of Cannes, he won the pommadore with Sex, Lies and Videotape a long time ago — but he’s back with his two-part movie about Che Guevara. You know, no one’s seen it except the people at Cannes, and it’s going to premiere there in competition. So keep an eye out, ’cause he’s Soderbergh, and people love Sodaberg.

Jablonski: Will do. Mike Speier is executive editor at Variety. So nice to see you.

Speier: Thank you.

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