InfoGraphic: Cannes Film Festival by the Numbers

By Adam Leipzig, Entertainment Media Partners, and Jeremy Kay, Screen International

The red carpet and rosé, movies and movie stars, buying and selling, prix and paparazzi. The world is watching. How does the Cannes Film Festival showcase the worldwide business of film?

To find out, Entertainment Media Partners, Cultural Weekly’s publisher, and Screen International have collaborated to crunch the data and produce the 2014 Cannes by the Numbers infographic.

Here are our findings:

Is Art its Own Reward?

Films in Festival competition don’t tend to make a lot of money. Only two in-competition films in the past five years have grossed more than $100 million worldwide. Nor do they win many Academy Awards; in the past five years, in-competition films have only taken home eight Oscars, out of 47 nominations.

Why? The Cannes Film Festival exemplifies the dual drivers of the international film industry. On the one hand, it is the most celebrated venue for premieres, especially those by notable directors. Cannes celebrates the art of filmmaking, and its 2014 jury is comprised of international art house luminaries: jury president Jane Campion (New Zealand) is joined by Willem Dafoe (US), Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark), Jia Zhangke (China) Sofia Coppola (US) Gael García Bernal (Mexico), Leila Hatami (Iran, star of Oscar-winner A Separation), Jeon Do-yeon (South Korea), and Carole Bouquet (France).

On the other hand, the Marché du Film, its film market, which runs parallel to the festival, is the year’s most important movie buying-and-selling bazaar. While the number of buyers, producers, sales agents, and countries represented has been rising steadily over the past three years, the number of films screening remain roughly even. This year, 560 sales agents and 5,100 companies will hold court in suites, tents and bars. 110 countries will be represented, and there will be 1,450 movies screened in the market—a number that towers over the 19 films in Festival competition.

International Talent, But Not Always Distribution

Cannes faithfully represents the international composition of the movie industry, but the films don’t always travel to screens worldwide.

Talent. For the films in competition in the past five years, international lead actors, producers and directors have outpaced US citizens in the same categories by ratios as high as 19:1. However, US representation is trending upward. In 2013, US lead actors, producers and directors comprised one-quarter of the talent pool for in-competition films. And that may be good for their commercial success: The biggest earners at the global box office (including the international box office portion) tend to be those that contain a US element, be it a production company, director or star.

Distribution. What happens to those films after the festival is another story. Of the 101 films in competition between 2009-2013, 78% were distributed in the United States, 50% were distributed in Brazil, but only 4% of them gained distribution in China.

Phantom India. India is a movie powerhouse, with immense box office grosses, admissions and screen count. Yet Bollywood movies have not achieved particular commercial success internationally. Among all the major film territories, only India has not had a film represented in competition at Cannes over the past five years.
Power and powerlessness

No majors. US studios have not acquired a single Cannes competition film in the last five years. At times, a US studio will bring a film to Cannes, as Paramount did with Nebraska.
Art house. IFC Films is the most voracious buyer of Cannes films for the US market, as it feeds its VOD (video on demand) pipeline. The Weinstein Company and Sony Classics are also major US buyers.

Captain America. In-competition films that generate the biggest revenues tend to have a US component, such as a US distributor or US stars. French films also fare well. There are a few notable exceptions: Japan’s Like Father, Like Son, Spain’s The Skin I Live In, South Korea’sThe Housemaid, Italy’s We Have a Pope and The Great Beauty, and Scandinavia’s Melancholiaand The Hunt.

Trends and predictions

One of the benefits of assembling data is that it gives us the opportunity to spot trends and, throwing caution to the winds, predict the future. Here’s what we foresee:

A strong America. Even as North America’s box office becomes a smaller percentage of the global total, US stars, directors and studios will continue to produce the most commercially successful films worldwide, and, in fact, their significance will increase.

Mixed results for sales agents. Because the movie business has become more global and transactional, additional sales agents will come into the ranks. Short term, this may spur greater opportunities and competition. Long term, it will make existing sales agents fight harder for a smaller slice of the pie. We expect to see consolidation and a correction in the number of sales agents beginning in 2016.

China will become more international. In order to demonstrate its membership in the international filmmaking community, beginning this year we’ll see an uptick in the number of in-competition films available to Chinese audiences.

Time will tell if these predictions prove correct. Until then, the Croisette awaits. Enjoy yourrosé.

Cannes Film Festival by the Numbers: Infographic, 2014

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Cannes Film festival 2014 Infographic


Creativity and Capital in the 21st Century

A funny thing happened on the way to traditional media’s complete dumbing-down of the American mind: Thomas Piketty’s gigantic, massively researched treatise Capital in the Twenty-First Century has climbed to the top ranks of Amazon’s best-seller list.

While few people will actually read every page of the French economist’s 700-page tome, the central premise of Piketty’s research has already become part of our national discourse, and it is easy to summarize.

Based on big data compiled over many years, Piketty demonstrates how the return on capital exceeds the general economy’s rate of growth. Therefore, inherited and accumulated wealth continue to increase, and become a larger and larger share of the entire economic pie. This explains the massive, and growing, rich-poor divide.

Piketty’s findings enrage the Right, who argue that “inequality of capital is simply a proxy for other kinds of inequality,” such as superior intelligence and motivation among the rich. They’re wrong, and a couple of examples from creative industries further prove Piketty’s points.

Consider the plight of the visual artist. If she sells her work through a gallery, the gallery takes fifty percent. That’s fair; the gallery’s curation and “seal of approval” add value to the work. But later, when the art collector sells the work, perhaps at a considerable profit, the original artist doesn’t get anything. Capital (the collector’s wealth) increases at a rate far greater than the general economy (that of the artist). (A bill was recently introduced in the US Congress to grant artists a meager 5% resale royalty; it won’t get out of committee.)

As further evidence, we can look at the gulf in value between filmed intellectual properties and the distribution systems that bring them to market. Subscription video services, like Hulu and Netflix, are able to pay pennies on the production-dollar for the right to distribute independent movies. This may be the only income those films can make, and therefore, it is true, many of those films don’t have much market value. But even as the general economic health of the artists that make these movies stays flat, or is in decline, the corporate value of the video distribution companies continues to grow.

A few years ago, I suggested that economists should recognize the Creativity Theory of Value. I wrote:

When you buy a pair of Nikes that have cost $5 to produce in a factory in Vietnam, why do you pay $100? For their creativity, design, and innovation, and the marketing involved in selling you all of these attributes.

The Creativity Theory of Value holds that the value of anything is the product of the Creativity involved in creating it multiplied by the Labor required to produce it. In mathematical terms, we could express it as:

C * L = V

where C is Creativity, L is Labor and V is Value. This will allow us to find the Creativity Index for anything.

When the Creativity Index is the number 1 or more, Creativity has had a significant positive effect on something’s value. But if the Creativity Index is less than 1, then we could say that the Creativity was a negative influence on the Labor; in other words, it wasn’t worth it.

In the two examples I cited above, the visual artist who sells to a collector, and the independent filmmaker who sells to a video service, even if the Creativity Index of the work proves to be significant, the creator won’t see any benefit. Piketty’s conclusion resounds: the value of collectors’ or distributors’ capital increases faster than the value of artists’ labor.

What’s the solution? Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth, and he couples its urgency with core democratic principles. “If democracy is to regain control over the globalized financial capitalism of this century, it must also invent new tools, adapted to today’s challenges,” Piketty writes. “The ideal tool would be a progressive global tax on capital, coupled with a very high level of financial transparency.” (p. 515)

This is very much in line with what Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston has been saying for years: taxation is the foundation of democracy:

There’s one more thing I truly love about Capital in the Twenty-First Century: Piketty is a lover of literature, and draws some of his inspiration from it. In one of my favorite passages, he quotes from Balzac’s 1835 novel Le Père Goriot to show us how the accumulation of capital and inherited wealth is a longstanding tradition. Vautrin, a master criminal, tries to give a life lesson to law student Eugène de Rastignac, and explains, point by point, how simply working and doing a good job will never provide wealth and security. “There is only one way,” says Vautrin. “Marry a woman who has money.”

Why Does Some Creative Culture Spread?

Why does some creative culture spread, while other creative culture arrives dead?

Why, for example, are people prowling the streets of Bristol, England, right now hoping to discover Banksy’s next work, while few notice when new street art appears in nearby Chippenham? Why is the worldwide movie-going audience buying advance tickets for Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man 2, and running away from Johnny Depp in Transcendence?

What makes culture move beyond the small embrace of its creator to become part of the bigger social fabric? Recently, I’ve been exploring these questions, seeking Laws of Culture that obtain independent of money. Because with a gigantic marketing budget, you can always buy awareness. But no matter how much advertising you buy, you cannot purchase desire.

When we look into the Laws of Culture, we’re really investigating desire: what causes us to experience it and want to share it.


Morning air brushes your face. As your legs cycle in rhythm, you wonder why no one else is on the street. Do you have the wrong day? The wrong time? Then, rounding a corner, you see another bicyclist and another. Soon there are five of you, now twenty, and you fold into the energy of the cycling pack, the group awareness, the power of your wheels on the pavement that starts to make cars move aside.

You anticipate, sensing excitement two blocks away, but nothing can prepare you for the emotional flush as you make the next turn to discover 10,000 more cyclists, of all ages and descriptions, at the starting point of today’s CicLAvia.

This is the experience many LA residents feel on occasional Sunday mornings in the city.

CicLAvia is a day when cars are banned from city streets, and bicycles and pedestrians take over. It’s an opportunity of urban idealism. Begun in Bogotá, Columbia, in 1976, where it is called Ciclovía and the central city closes to automobile traffic every Sunday, it has inspired similar events in more than ten countries and dozens of US cities.

No American city has adopted it more than LA. You would never have expected CicLAvia to grasp a firm hold here, but it has the city in its thrall. LA’s CicLAvia is so successful that one recent day saw 150,000 people bicycling from LA’s downtown to Venice Beach, and CicLAvia’s organizers have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to make it a monthly event. (Support them! I have!)

What would make Angelenos ditch their cars for a day? Let’s call it one of the Laws of Culture: The Law of Discovery. When we discover a way to do something we secretly hope to do, we’ll do it. LA’s car-love is mythologized in the sense that it is overstated. Most Angelenos feel ambivalent about their cars. We view then as utilitarian requirements in a spread-out city without sufficient public transportation.

When a work of creative culture, like CicLAvia, gives people the feeling that they are discovering something new—instead of making them feel force-fed—it creates desire. It is more likely to be shared and to gain momentum. CicLAvia creates the feeling of discovery because its organizers constantly change its route, and because participants approach it alone on bicycles, then suddenly, in turning one corner, discover they are part of a vast collective enterprise.

This is one way that creative culture moves and spreads—through the emotions of anticipation and discovery. It’s the Law of Discovery, and CicLAvia illustrates it on city streets for all to see.