A year ago when Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" opened the Cannes Film Festival, no one would have ever guessed it was the beginning of a fairly amazing success story. Released in theaters a week later, the film would go on to become Allen's highest grossing film ever, and get him his first Oscar in 25 years.
"Midnight in Paris" represents the crown jewel -- at least in terms of box office -- of what turned out to be a pretty remarkable group of Cannes 2011 alums. Three films in official competition -- "Paris," "The Artist" and "Drive" -- ended up grossing north of $35 million in North America, while four ended up with $50 million+ gross worldwide. The year prior, the highest grossing film in official competiton -- in terms of North American release -- ended up being Doug Liman's "Fair Game," which took in just under $10 million Stateside.
What's more, Cannes ended up one upping Toronto in terms of being a launch pad for awards hopefuls. Collectively, the festival saw its world premieres win 6 Oscars and 19 nominations, including best picture winner The Artist" (the crown jewel of Cannes 2011 from an awards perspective, to be sure). Toronto, on the other hand, had its crop win a single Oscar (though notably it was for "Beginners," which premiered at the 2010 edition of that fest) and 9 nominations.
While Cannes debuts have made their way to Oscar night on a fairly regular basis ("Pulp Fiction," "L.A. Confidential," "The Pianist," "Inglorious Basterds," etc.), it's rare to have so many. In 2010, screenplay nominee "Another Year," documentary feature winner "Inside Job" and foreign language film trio "Biutiful," "Dogtooth" and "Outside the Law," gave Cannes alums a grand total of five nominations. A year later, that total nearly quadrupled -- more than any other film festival in terms of world premieres.
What's more: the dominant Cannes Oscar trio of "The Artist," "The Tree of Life" and "Midnight in Paris" each received best picture and best director nods -- the first time three Cannes debuts managed that feat. Twice it's happened with two films: In 1996 -- perhaps the previous most Oscar-friendly Cannes year -- with "Fargo" and "Secrets & Lies" and then again in 2009 with "Inglorious Basterds" and "Up."
And Cannes could have been even more dominant. The likes of "Drive," "We Need To Talk About Kevin" and "Melancholia" were shamefully snubbed ("Drive" recieved a lone nomination for sound editing).
Though this is likely an anomaly, it's a reminder to keep a look out over the next 11 days as more than a few Oscar campaigns could be having their beginnings. It's also just as possible a few of the year's biggest specialty box office hits are amidst Cannes' 2012 selection.
On the next page, check out the top 10 grossing films to be theatrically released from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, with notes on how each film played out over awards season. Notably, this does not include "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which had a special screening at the festival.