One of the most recurrent questions we receive this time of the year is, “How can I attend screenings at Cannes?” If you’ve looked around the net, you probably came up with a blank on this one. So here’s the inside deal: there are ways, but it’s not quite the glamorous process you think it is.
The Cannes festival is basically two things: a promotional showcase and a trade market. If you are neither press nor industry, nothing is done to make life easy for you. You should know that even within the accredited press, for example, there is a strict pecking order. Some journalists are definitely favoured over others.
Attending screenings in Cannes as a Cinephile
So the simple movie fan that wants to catch a few films has little chance. It is possible to catch movies outside the Palais, usually at smaller venues. The city of Cannes insisted that the festival make some tickets available, and set up the Cannes Cinema body (link below) to handle this. So it is possible to obtain tickets. But the Cannes Cinema site specifies that they are primarily for people with some sort of non-professional connection to movies, such as films clubs, teachers, etc. I know there is some lee-way on this.
If you can’t face the prospect of trying to justify your existence, you could always try your luck picking up tickets early in the morning at the Cannes Cinema booth (in the Pantiero zone) or at the Raimu, Licorne and Studio 13 cinemas. These screenings are not in the main theatre, but do include films from the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Official Selection, Un certain regard and Cannes Classics selection. You can’t really choose what to see, as these are basically leftover seats.
Tickets for the Semaine international de la critique can (if you’re lucky and early enough) be picked up at the Espace Miramar (35, rue Pasteur) or with a Cannes Cinéphile badge. Remember, conditions apply and exceptions are regularly made. To quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.
Confusing? Just wait until you hit town! Getting to see anything involves a lot of walking from one source of information to another, getting up early and queuing. But you are at Cannes, and might just spot someone half-famous in the street.
Attending screenings using leftover seats
Back in the Palais, when the Cannes festival protocol services have given out seats for screenings, they occasionally find themselves with leftovers. From about 2pm, people start queuing outside the Palais to try and pick up a seat. Professionals are often surprisingly generous too, passing out tickets they don’t want. But, again, it’s the luck of the draw. A variation of this that works is to walk around with a sign saying, “Looking for a seat to [favourite film]”. I’ve known people pick up tickets that way too. If you follow my Twitter account, you will occasionally see offers from people offloading extra tickets.
Another opportunity is to check the Cinéma de la Plage. I’ve seen quite a few films here, and I think it’s a fun event. A giant screen is placed on the beach close to the Palais and shows a broad selection of art-house films and old classics. Tickets are available from the Cannes Tourist Office on the day.
Having a badge, I have never had to go through most of this process. So I’m hoping that someone with more experience will chip in with some useful information. Good luck!
Link: Cannes Cinema (for the Cinéphile badge).
Michael Leahy has attended the Cannes Film festival as well as other Cannes events on many occasions over the past 20 year. He is also the author of the Cannes Starter Guide.
Remember, hotels for the Cannes Film festival start booking up as early as October or November of the previous year. So don’t forget to book your Cannes hotel in time.