A More Muted Cannes 2009: London Years

A More Muted Cannes

LONDON -- For years, Cannes has offered the most tantalizing glamour and the most lavish parties.

But this year the film festival is tightening its belt as the industry sobers up in line with the global economic crisis, with guests expected to down sparkling wine instead of champagne and onion tart instead of foie gras. Even Vanity Fair's most sought-after black-tie ball is being scrapped. "Companies are not organizing big evenings or events. The big players will come, of course, but they will not stay as long as they used to or they will cut down in the number of people they send to the festival," Michel Chevillon, head of the association representing around 12 Cannes hotels told Forbes. "Companies in the movie business are going through a hard time and they cannot take this opportunity to show off." According to Chevillon, industry players attending Cannes are spending between 25% to 30% less on hotel accommodations compared to previous years. "They used to stay between nine to 10 nights, now they only will stay between seven to eight nights," he said. And while companies usually book up to 30 rooms for their crews, this year they have cut back to 20 rooms or less. Guests can even find hotel rooms right in the middle of the center, something unconceivable in an event where attendees make reservations a year in advanced. "Occupancy is around 85% this year, whereas before it was 95%," said Chevillon. The yacht business is suffering too with companies that hire the yachts feeling the squeeze with brokers struggling to find third-party companies willing to charter the boats for entertainment. "I have never seen it this empty before," Jeroen Frech, a yacht owner said, adding that his business had seen a 50% fall for the Cannes season. Even Jacques Dessange, the official hairdresser of the festival, is bringing 15 stylists instead of the usual 20 it employs to curl and press the locks of the stars, and has cut its budget by 20%. Yet the hairdresser tries to play down the effects of the crisis. "Crisis or not, the festival will have its same magical touch this year because it is so important that celebrities cannot afford to miss it," said Sophie Lajouanie, a spokeswoman with Dessange. "It will be as glamorous as every year."

After all, it seems some are still willing to pay any price for Cannes. Two guests have reportedly paid 36,000 euros a night each for the penthouse suites at the top of the Hotel Martinez, which has been fully booked since February for all 12 days of the event. The hotel confirmed the rooms had been booked but would not confirm the amount paid.

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