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Cannes 2011 Box Office Recap: Some Played, Most Didn’t

Cannes 2011 Box Office Recap: Some Played, Most Didn't

As we anticipate savoring the various sections of Cannes 2012 (official and sidebar), let’s dig into the level of success of last year’s entries – including the first Best Picture Oscar-winner launched at the festival, and two others also nominated in the same category. Not only that trio but several other high-profile films also went on to some success in the U.S., although all but one were limited to art-house audiences.

In all, 48 of the 100 films screened at Cannes 2011 (all but a handful were world premieres, and most were not acquired for the US before the fest) have played theatrically in the U.S. or are scheduled to do so. That’s per usual (it’s also common for more films to eventually find DVD or other non-theatrical venues). But outside of the high-visibility competition and other Palais galas, the success rate was actually below normal, in terms of stateside grosses.

As this year’s sections are filled in, here’s how their counterparts last year have fared (distributor information includes some unreleased titles that may not play theatrically):


Released (title/US distributor/US-Canada theatrical gross to date – * indicates still in theaters)

“The Artist” (Weinstein) – $44,086,000 *
“Drive” (Film District) – $35,061,000
“The Tree of Life” (Fox Searchlight) – $13,303,000
“The Skin I Live In” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $3,186,000
“Melancholia” (Magnolia) – $3,031,000
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Oscilloscope) – $1,638,000 *
“Footnote” (Sony Classics) – $1,100,000
“The Kid With the Bike” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $736,000 *
“Le Havre” (Janus) – $612,000
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (Cinema Guild) – $110,000 *
“We Have a Pope” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $98,000 *
“Sleeping Beauty” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $37,000
“L’Apollonide/House of Pleasures” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $19,000
“Michael” (Strand) – $14,000

Not yet released:

“Polisse” (IFC-Sundance Selects)
“This Must Be the Place” (Weinstein)

Not acquired

“Hanezu, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai,” La source des femmes”

Slow but steady won the race – “The Tree of Life,” the biggest sensation in competition and Palme d’Or winner last year did less than a third of the gross and also lost at the Oscar to “The Artist,” which also was quite well-received (Jean Dujardin’s won his first best actor award). “Drive,” always intended as a wider commercial release, also clearly outpaced it.

Notably, the five top-grossing films all were either co-financed by their U.S. distributors (“Drive”) or acquired prior to the festival (including “The Artist,“ “The Tree of Life,” “The Skin I Live In” and “Melancholia.”) “Footnote,” likely to have the sixth-best gross, was announced as a SPC film the day before its premiere.  None of the rest of the releases has or will reach even $2 million in domestic box office. (“Polisse” opens soon. The Sean Penn-starring “This Must Be the Place,” acquired by Weinstein last fall, surfaced at Sundance at January, and should have a release date as soon as next week.)

Having three competition films gross over $10 million is extremely unusual – over the previous three years, only two films achieved this (“Inglourious Basterds” and  “Changeling”), both of which would have done so even without Cannes exposure. Last year’s response launched  both “The Artist” and “The Tree of Life” in much more crucial ways. This year’s field includes at least five English-language films with director/actor combinations that would seem to have potential of equaling or even exceeding last year. (TWC’s “Killing Them Softly” and “Lawless,” SPC’s “Rust & Bone” and “Amour,” and up-for-grabs “Paperboy” and “Mud.”) The proof, though, is in the pudding.



“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (Buena Vista) – $241,072,000
“Midnight in Paris” (opening film)  (Sony Pictures Classics) – $56,817,000
“The Beaver” (Summit) – $971,000
“The Conquest” (Music Box) – $74,000
“This Is Not a Film” (Palisades Tartan) – $51,000
“The Big Fix” (self-released) – no gross reported

Not yet released

“Beloved” (closing film) (IFC-Sundance Selects)

“Dragon” (aka The Swordsmen) (Weinstein)

Not acquired

“Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told,” “The Cry of the Ant,” “Duch – the Master of the Forges of Hell,” “18 Days,” “Labrador,” “Tous au Larzac,” “Michel Petrucciani,” “No More Fear,” “Days of Grace”

This strange mixture of films was led  by the one-hand-washes-the-other big event world premiere of “Pirates” (which has grossed more in the U.S. than the rest of Cannes combined) and the surprisingly successful “Midnight in Paris” (clearly elevated by its opening night position around the world). “The Beaver” played after its US opening for overseas publicity. Most of the rest are documentaries, which still are not the main focus of the festival despite the inclusion of far more than was the case in the past.

 English-language films that open the festival often are presumed to be near-term international hits (recent ones include “The Da Vinci Code,” “Up” and “Robin Hood”). Those that are aimed at art-houses at least initially (“My Blueberry Nights,” “Biutiful”) rarely achieve what the Woody Allen film did last year. Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus) is situated between those two types, but an enthusiastic response would elevate the film, although his last five films all grossed around $12 million or more.



“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Fox Searchlight) – $2,991,000
“Restless” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $163,000
“Miss Bala” (Fox International) – no gross reported
“The Yellow Sea” (Wellmade Star M/Fox International) – no gross reported

Not yet released

“Where Do We Go Now?” (Sony Classics)
“Bonsai” (Strand)
“The Day He Arrives” (Cinema Guild)
“Elena” (Zeitgeist)
“Outside Satan” (New Yorker)
“Oslo, August 31st” (Strand)
“Beauty” (TLA)

Not acquired

“Arirang,” “The Minister,” “Goodbye,” “Hard Labor,” “The Hunter,” “Loverboy,””Beauty,” “Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “Stopped on Track,” “Tatsumi,” “Toomelah”

The second most prestigious section at Cannes, chosen by the same team as the Competition, premieres many films that often become niche international successes from both established directors and up-and- coming talents. In recent years, the biggest successes have been Sundance films getting their first international exposure (“Precious,” “Blue Valentine,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene” last year).

Last year’s entries otherwise have had a spotty record (including two barely released in the U.S., both co-financed by 20th Century-Fox with their home countries more in mind, although “Miss Bala” deserved a much better fate here). But among the rest, there may yet find some success, particularly the Lebanese  “Where Do We Go Now,” the surprise People’s Choice winner at Toronto, after which Sony Classics acquired it.

Quinzaine/Directors’ Fortnight


“Return” (Dada) – $16,000

“The Fairy” (Kino Lorber) – $9,000
“Kids of Today” (Factory 25) – gross unknown *

Not yet released

“Corpo celeste” (Film Movement)
“Guilty of Romance” (Olive)
“Unforgiveable” (Strand)

Not acquired

“Heat Wave,” “The Silver Cliff,” “Bluebird,” “Breathing,” “Code Blue,” “The End of Silence,” “Les Geants,” “Guilty of Romance,” “Iris in Bloom,” “The Island,” “Chatrak,” “At Night They Dance,’ “The Night Watchman,” “On the Plank,” “The Other Side of Sleep,” “Busong,” “Play,” “Porfirio,” “The Silence of Joan,”  “Armand 15 Years Old,” “Summer”

In recent years, the Quinzaine has fallen short of its traditional role as a showcase for not only solid festival fodder but also as the initial showcase for a handful of films each year that also gained at least a degree of commercial interest (“Laurel Canyon,” “Osama,” “The Host,” “Caramel,” “Tetro” among others over the last decade).

Last year was the nadir as far as acquisitions and success, at least so far. Selections have gone on to play at Toronto, New York, New Directors/New Films, Sundance, but remain almost entirely unfamiliar to US specialized audiences.  Against all normal expectations, Critics’ Week recently, even with far fewer films, has had more exposure in the US.



“Take Shelter” (Sony Pictures Classics) – $1,730,000
“Declaration of War” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $46,000
“The Snowtown Murders” (IFC-Sundance Selects) – $8,000

Not yet released

“17 Girls” (Strand)

“Walk Away, Renee” (IFC-Sundance Selects)

Not acquired

“The Acacias,” “Ave,” “Bachelor Days Are Over,” “My Little Princess,” “Sauna on Moon,” “The Slut”

A sidebar section mainly featuring first or second features, programmed in association with the main Cannes organization, their small (last year 11) selection usually makes little acquisition impact. The showing of “Take Shelter” last year followed its Sundance premiere. The hoped-for breakout film didn’t work out though – “Declaration of War” was the surprise French submission for the foreign-language Oscar, but failed to make even the semifinalists, and its release right after gained little traction.

Cannes Classics


“The Look” (Kino Lorber) – $20,000

“Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel” (Anchor Bay) – no gross reported

Not acquired

Belmondo – “Itineraire,” “Kurosawa’s Way,” “Once Upon a Time – A Clockwork Orange”

In recent years, the festival has spotlighted a handful of films, usually documentaries, about movies and moviemaking. Two of last year’s five actually got limited theatrical playoff. The rest likely show up on cable and/or DVD extras.

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