ANIMATION COMES OF AGE AT CANNES

The Cannes Film Festival opened today (Wednesdy) on a high note, both literally and figuratively, with the screening of Disney/Pixar's Up for the press in the morning and the invitational screening this evening. There appeared to be general agreement among the writers that Pixar will have its tenth straight hit with the movie. And with the main character, an elderly gentleman voiced by Ed Asner, becoming the first senior citizen since Mr. Magoo to be the focus of an animated film, it is likely to attract ticket buyers of all ages. (Indeed, the villain, voiced by Christopher Plummer, is named Muntz, a name likely to be recognized by baby boomers who can recall Earl "Madman" Muntz, a post-WWII used-car salesman who introduced low-cost TV sets in the '50s ("I wanted to give them away, but my wife wouldn't let me -- she thinks I'm craaazy!"), eight-track stereo car systems in the '60s, and home satellite units in the '70s. (The filmmakers have not indicated whether they borrowed his name; it is also the name of a Simpsons character.) In his review of the movie, Daily Variety's Todd McCarthy remarked, "The two leading men are 78 and 8 years old, and the age range of those who will appreciate the picture is even a bit wider than that." At a news conference following the press screening, Ed Catmull, president of Disney Animation, commented: "There's a perception that animated films are for kids. A lot of people have that, which I think is very unfortunate. The films are made by adults who have very adult concerns." And John Lasseter, who holds the title of chief creative officer at Disney/Pixar, told reporters that the decision by Cannes officials to spotlight Up as the festival's opening film this year represents "one of the greatest kinds of rewards, it's one of the greatest things that's happened to us in our career. ... To see animation respected at the world's premier film festival ... you pinch yourself."

CANNES FILM MARKET HEALTHY

Jérôme Paillard, who oversees Cannes's Marché du Film, the business end of the Cannes Film Festival, maintained that contrary to distressing reports of studio marketing cutbacks at Cannes and fewer hotel and yacht rentals in town due to the recession, "we haven't really seen any impact here from the crisis." Cannes Market News, the official daily trade publication distributed by the Marché, reported today (Wednesday) that "organizers expect attendance numbers to come out at around the same levels as last year by the close of the Marché." Paillard suggested that the main difference between this year's festival and those preceding it is that a lot more 3D films are being screened. On the other hand, former Daily Variety reporter Rex Weiner writes in today's (Wednesday) online Huffington Post that both trade publications, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, have significantly cut back on their Cannes coverage with Variety using a skeleton crew in Los Angeles -- instead of one on-site -- to produce its daily Cannes edition. The Reporter has assigned only four reporters to Cannes (plus two reviewers). Weiner concludes: "While the cutback in trade reporting from the field may be yet another symptom of the media's overall malaise, it also marks a tipping point for the Cannes Film Festival itself. The importance of Cannes has diminished in the film world over the years (when was the last time a Palme d'Or winner was also a hit at the US box-office?), and now the lack of serious coverage by industry journalists may prove to be its death knell." As another sign of degeneration, a small group of accredited writers -- who apparently have never had to work in a noisy newsroom -- succeeded in persuading the attendants in a press room at Cannes to mute the monitor showing live coverage of the festival's news conferences -- on the grounds that the audio was distracting.

WHO PAYS FOR 3D GLASSES?

The major movie studios and theater owners may have reached an equitable agreement on digital projection in which the studios pay theaters a "virtual print" fee -- essentially the same amount that they would have to pay for a film print and shipping charges -- until theaters recoup the costs of installing the new equipment, but they have not reached agreement on who pays for 3D glasses, the Hollywood Reporter observed today (Wednesday). Right now the studios foot the bill for the disposable glasses -- about $1.00 per pair -- as well as the additional costs of producing the 3D movies. Some studios are suggesting that the studios ought to switch to reusable glasses. "If you could get the cost of disposables down to, say, 35 cents or even 45 cents a pair, then it wouldn't be a big deal," one distribution executive told the trade publication. (The 3D glasses being used at the Cannes Film Festival are the reusable kind. Before this morning's screening of Disney's Up, a festival executive urged the assembled reporters to return the glassesso that they could be reused for the evening screening. Meanwhile, Regal Entertainment, the country's largest movie-theater chain, said Tuesday that the current economic slump has made it difficult to borrow the funds needed in order to expand the chain and upgrade its projectors.

SINGAPORE RAISES INVESTMENT IN FILMS

Singapore has used the Cannes Film Festival as an unusual platform to announce a government-backed $156-million media investment program. The Media Development Authority said on Tuesday that the funds will be in addition to the $340 million the government has already allocated to interactive media research and development over the next five years. Singapore also unveiled three 3D films that will receive government backing to the tune of $3.4 million each and which are being offered for sale in Cannes despite the fact that they are months away from beginning production.

Cinemark Movie Club