why the palme d’or no longer fills cinemas

By Le Figaro with AFP


pulp Fiction (left) and Apocalypse Now are among the “palmed” films to have met with great popular success. Miramax/A Band Apart/Photo United Archives/Cinema Collection/Bridgeman Images/Everett Collection/Bridgeman Images

The award-winning films have gathered half as many spectators for thirty years as they did before. And the phenomenon has become even more pronounced over the past ten years.

Is the French public still interested in the winners of the Cannes film festival? The last big success of a palme d’or goes back 30 years. Where did the popular enthusiasm caused by The wages of fear, A man and a woman Or Apocalypse Now? pulp Fiction of Quentin Tarantino is the last Palme d’Or to have met with great popular success in France. With 2.86 million admissions, it ranked 8e at the box office of films released in 1994, according to the specialized site CBO Box Office.

For 30 years, lead palms

Cannes served as a springboard for the career of this young 31-year-old director, who had only Reservoir Dogs in the pocket. And reciprocally, the “faquin” of the cinema – as Jean-Luc Godard nicknamed him – will work for the legend of the festival.

Since then, no “winning” film has reached the top 10 of the French box office, whereas twelve had achieved this feat between 1949 and 1994. In the recent period, only one, the pamphlet Fahrenheit 9/11 of Michael Mooreranked in the top 20. And the headliner of the last decade, Parasite from Korean Bong Joon-ho, comes only 26th in the 2019 ranking with 1.94 million admissions. Until 1994, the Palmes d’Or attracted an average of 1.72 million spectators, compared to 812,000 since then. Or half less.

It is The Wages of Fear by Henri-Georges Clouzot, winner in 1953, which attracted the most with 6.94 million spectators. But this explosive film belongs to a time when the crowd in dark rooms was twice as high as today.

At equal attendanceApocalypse Now is undoubtedly the biggest popular success for a palme d’or, with 4.54 million admissions. Winner in 1979, Coppola’s legendary fresco on the Vietnam War ranked 2nd at the French box office and concentrated 2.55% of admissions that year. Two records for one palm. It is thus the only palm with pulp Fiction And The piano lesson by Jane Campion (1993) to have represented more than 2% of total admissions for the year. For comparison, the overall champion of entries, titanic concentrated in 1998 12% of tickets sold. Proportionally lower, admissions toA man and a woman of Lelouch (4.27 million in 1966), of Cheetah (3.65 million in 1963) or even Taxi Driver (8th at the box office in 1976 with 2.69 million admissions) are now a dream.

Confidential fins

Generally speaking, gold palms are rarely popular. Since 1949, of the 82 award-winning films, 42 have not reached the Top 50 at the French box office. Nineteen even stayed at the gates of the Top 100. Who remembers The given Word by the Brazilian Anselmo Duarte, winner in 1962, the 228th film at the box office with 204,000 admissions? Or even Best Intentions (1992) by Bille August, who holds the record for the smallest number of spectators (92,000)? A slap for this autobiographical scenario ofIngmar Bergman.

Over the past ten editions, unpopularity has been at its zenith: eight out of ten palms have not entered the top 50. The last two, the metallic-erotic Titanium (2021) and satire Without filter (2022), whose respective directors, Julia Ducournau And Ruben Ostlund are on the jury for the 2023 edition, only attracted an informed and small audience.

Haneke vs. 007

Cannes preferring auteur films, its gold palms do not compete in the same category as big-budget productions, box-office stars. When eternity and a day of the Greek Théo Angelopoulos, palme d’or 1998, confronts titanic in theaters, when Lovethe drama by Michael Haneke, was released the same year as Sky Fall, competition is necessarily unfair.

Avatar, Spider-Man, The Lion King, Star Wars, Harry Potter and others James Bond... The majority of the box office masters of the last 20 years are films whose envelopes easily exceed 100 million dollars, sometimes 200 or 300 million. The palmes d’or rarely exceed a budget of 10 million euros.

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