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Recession bites Cannes film festival

world Updated: May 09, 2009 01:07 IST

Recession bites Cannes film festival

Spotting the world’s greatest movie stars at the Cannes film festival might be a little more difficult than usual this year. The number of Hollywood films at the competition is at a record low and US movie studios are cutting back spending on trips to the glamorous French Riviera.

Like every other sector of the US economy, they are feeling the sharp effects of the global economic downturn, industry officials say. “Everyone’s just scaling back,” says Lynne McCreary, managing director of the American Pavilion, which serves as the hub for Hollywood visitors at the Cannes festival. “People’s budgets are a lot tighter and our sponsorship is down 75 per cent.”

Those cutbacks are coming despite the fact that Hollywood is enjoying its most lucrative-ever year at the domestic box office where ticket sales were up 17.5 per cent to a record $3.06 billion at the end of April.

But that record take tells only half the story. The two other major strands of film studio income — DVD sales and foreign revenue — are both sharply down. “Even though domestic box-office admissions are soaring, the global movie business — particularly overseas DVD and television sales — is slumping,” moaned the Los Angeles Times recently.

“International distributors can’t get financing to buy movies, piracy is cutting into overseas ticket sales, foreign currencies are falling in value and key international territories have essentially discontinued acquiring American films.” Japan, in particular, has almost stopped buying English language movies in favour of indigenous movies.

Nonetheless, the glittering Cannes scene will be entirely bereft of Hollywood royalty. The most prominent American entry in the 20 movie competition is cult director Quentin Tarantino’s World War II rampage The Inglourious Basterds. The plot revolves around a group of American-Jewish soldiers put together by a character, played by Brad Pitt, to strike terror into the hearts of Germany’s occupying forces in France.

They join causes with a beautiful young French Jewess who seeks revenge on the Nazis for killing her entire family.