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The 12 Hottest Box Office Prospects Coming Out of Cannes

The 12 Hottest Box Office Prospects Coming Out of Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival doesn’t much care what the American public likes. Hollywood entries at Cannes 2016, which included recent releases “Money Monster and “The Nice Guys,” played out of competition. And most of the award winners won’t register at the North American box office, no matter how much the critics adore them.

However, there was another set of movies at Cannes. While largely ignored by the jury, these titles have serious aspirations to make a mark at the arthouse this year — and at the Oscars next year. They’re the Cannes films you’re most likely to see.

Here’s our ranking of the movies with distributors that most likely to reach a sizable North American audience this fall.

1. “Loving

Director: Jeff Nichols
Distributor: Focus Features
Stars: Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga
Release date: November 4, 2016
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore: 71
Critics’ take: Some reviewers admired this sincere biopic, while others found it too tastefully restrained, comparing it to past Cannes entries “Foxcatcher” and “Carol,” eventual Oscar nominees which played a tad flat with audiences.
Prospects: Press in Cannes declared this strong portrait of a biracial Virginia couple who were arrested under miscegenation laws in 1962 a full-fledged Oscar contender. Focus will push hard through the fall festivals and beyond, and Edgerton and Negga’s delicately gauged performances will garner support from both critics and actors. Following last year’s #oscarssowhite controversy, this will be hard for Academy voters to overlook.

2.”The Neon Demon”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Distributor: Amazon/Broad Green Pictures
Star: Elle Fanning
Release date: June 24, 2016
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 57
Critics’ take: Shallow smart horror flick has more style than content. 

Prospects: While the movie was not a critical hit in Cannes and did not win any prizes, the stylishly transgressive exercise could become a smart-horror hit stateside when Amazon Studios releases it in June, even though theatrical partner Broad Green is not a proven entity with horror.

3. “Elle”

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Star: Isabelle Huppert
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore: 86

Critics’ take: Isabelle Huppert drew universal acclaim. 
Prospects: With a push from awards-savvy Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, this commercial movie could wind up a North American hit this fall, a French Oscar nominee (if France submits it), and a Best Actress Oscar contender.

4. “Café Society”

Director: Woody Allen
Distributor: Amazon Studios/Lionsgate
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively
Release date: July 15

Cannes section: Opener, Out of Competition
Reviews: Metascore: 68
Critics’ take: Allen’s 47th picture is a consolidation of his usual fixations.
Prospects: Amazon Studios plunked down $20 million to release this $30-million romantic roundelay, which is unlikely to recoup at the box office. The period comedy won’t score at the level of “Midnight in Paris,” which topped out at $56 million domestic (and that was with an Original Screenplay Oscar win).

5. “Personal Shopper”

Director: Olivier Assayas
Distributor: IFC Films
Star: Kristen Stewart
Release date: October 19, 2016
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 67
Critics’ take: The movie proved divisive at Cannes, where a smattering of boos greeted the initial press screening. Some find it a thoughtful deconstruction of genre tropes, while others see a portrait of a grieving young woman with identity issues.

Prospects: Anyone seeking a traditional horror movie will be disappointed. Typically, some viewers embrace Assayas’ studied, open-ended approach, while others will reject it outright. Genre elements and the presence of Stewart —who has a loyal following—will lure some audiences to the smart Cannes directing prize co-winner.


6. “American Honey”

Director: Andrea Arnold
Distributor: A24
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough
Release date: Early fall
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 77.

Prospects: A24 has a knack (see “Spring Breakers”) for connecting with the younger arthouse demo that is so hard to reach. This portrait of disaffected American youth boasts relatable breakout star Sasha Lane, superb performances from LaBeouf and Keough, a young ensemble of unknowns, and a roaring soundtrack. It could pop because it’s so unlike anything else on the film scene. But even with a fall festival push, this long sit (162 minutes) feels like more of a Gotham or Indie Spirit Award than Oscar contender. Its final box office will be hard-won.

7. “Paterson”

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Distributor: Amazon Studios (release partner TBD)
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 86

Prospects: This deceptively simple poetic meditation and celebration of everyday life is carried by Driver, who could build some awards buzz at fall festivals. But this exquisitely refined film is unlikely to cross over from the arthouse circuit and could also wind up in the running for Gotham and Indie Spirit awards.

8. “The Red Turtle”

Director: Michaël Dudok de Wit
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release date: TBD
Cannes Section: Un Certain Regard
Reviews: Metascore: 89
Critics’ Take: Many thought this quiet little masterpiece produced by Studio Ghibli should have been in the main Competition.
Prospects:  SPC grabbed this critics’ fave away from usual Studio Ghibli distributor GKids on the strength of their work on such animation contenders as “The Triplets of Belleville.” They will push this silent, universally appealing family survival tale to a wide audience and a likely animation Oscar bid.

9. “Toni Erdmann”

Director: Maren Ade
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 92.
Critics’ take: Reviewers hailed German filmmaker Maren Ade’s generational comedy, which easily topped Screen International’s critics’ poll, but were shocked when the jury failed to give it any awards.

Prospects: The movie pits a goofy father (Peter Simonischek) against his workaholic corporate strategist daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) with hilarious and satisfying results. Audiences will relate to this father-daughter tale, a likely Oscar submission from Germany, even if it is in several foreign languages.

10. “I, Daniel Blake”

Director: Ken Loach
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 78
Critics’ take: From “soul-touching” to “cinema as blunt instrument,” critics were divided.

Prospects: The Palme d’Or winner is a four-hankie movie that will touch audiences, as it did the Cannes jury. It marks Loach’s most accessible movie to date. Screenwriter Paul Laverty could grab some awards attention.

11. “The Handmaiden”

Director: Park Chan-Wook
Distributor: Amazon/Magnolia
Release date: TBA
Cannes Section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 75
Critics’ take: Reviewers were mostly high on this lushly mounted erotic period mystery set during the Japanese occupation of Korea: from “amusingly kinky,” “pleasurable,” and “grotesque,” to “sybaritic, cruel, and luridly mesmerizing.”
Prospects: Korean star Kim Min-hee and newcomer Kim Tae-ri carry this sexy drama as they not only fall lustily in love, but also plot against their oppressive masters. Arthouse audiences should respond to this luscious tale of sexual expression and female empowerment, which may be South Korea’s Oscar entry.

12. “Captain Fantastic”

Director: Matt Ross
Distributor: Bleecker Street Media
Star: Viggo Mortensen
Release date: July 8, 2016
Cannes section: Un Certain Regard
Reviews: Metascore 67.
Critics’ take:  The Sundance hit was already established when it played at Cannes. One critic found it “emotionally gripping” while another called it “an odd bird, sometimes endearing, sometimes unbelievable.”

Prospects: Viggo Mortensen is terrific in this entertaining and colorful portrait of an off-the-grid family dealing with grief. Bleecker knows how to engage the adult target audience.

Less likely to score big at the box office, the following Cannes entries will yield more modest numbers. 


Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 63
Prospects: Almodóvar is one of the last remaining auteurs with a theatrical following, but this dark Hitchockian entry isn’t one of his trademark comedies. It will get more box office mileage if Spain picks it as its Oscar submission.


Director: Pablo Larraín
Star: Gael Garcia Bernal
Distributor: The Orchard
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Directors’ Fortnight
Reviews: Metascore 86
Critics’ take: This lyrical portrait follows charismatic and wily Communist politician and poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) as he stays one step ahead of a relentless Chilean government enforcer (Gael García Bernal).

Prospects: Rising indie distributor The Orchard will push hard after likely overspending ($1.5 million) for this possible but not guaranteed foreign Oscar entry from Chile. With Sony Pictures Classics behind it, Larrain’s 2012 film “No” did land a nomination after playing the Quinzaine.

“Dog Eat Dog”

Director: Paul Schrader
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Stars: Nic Cage and Willem Dafoe
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Director’s Fortnight
Reviews: Metascore 59
Critics’ take: Schrader emerged from Drirectors’ Fortnight with his best reviews in years for this entertaining and wickedly funny take on the crime caper movie, anchored by two stars at the top of their game.

Prospects: Video company Image is set to provide a perfunctory theatrical release unless someone better comes along to pick up the title. There’s theatrical potential here, but this may wind up a VOD hit.

“The Unknown Girl”

Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 58

Critics’ take: Cannes reviewers were tough on the film, calling it an “odd portrait of a doctor, a dramatically stilted and passionless quasi-procedural concerning a mysterious death.”
Prospects: IFC/Sundance Selects has released the Dardenne brothers’ previous two films and should have no trouble engaging the co-directors’ loyal fan base with a theatrical release, especially if Belgium submits it for the Oscar.




Cristian Mungiu
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Release date: TBD
Cannes section: Competition
Reviews: Metascore 86
Critics’ take: Reviews were strong for directing prize co-winner’s father-daughter drama “Graduation,” which sends a controlling father (Adrian Titieni) into a tailspin when his long-held post-graduation plans for his daughter (Dragus) go terribly awry.
Prospects: While this likely Romanian Oscar entry is more accessible than Mungiu’s previous efforts, it will still perform modestly, much like Mungiu’s other films released by IFC/Sundance Selects, “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” and “Beyond the Hills.”

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