Cannes Film Festival: which Palmes d’Or have been successful in the cinema… and which have failed at the box office?

Cannes Film Festival: which Palmes d’Or have been successful in the cinema… and which have failed at the box office?
Cannes Film Festival: which Palmes d’Or have been successful in the cinema… and which have failed at the box office?

Will the 2024 Palme d’Or experience the same fate as Justine Triet’s film, Anatomy of a fall? This is obviously all we wish for it, but the history of previous award-winning works does not necessarily speak in its favor.

Generally speaking, the Palmes d’Or very rarely meet with popular success in theaters. Since 1949, of the 83 award-winning films, 42 have not reached the Top 50 at the French box office. 19 even remained outside the Top 100. Until 1994, the Palmes d’Or attracted an average of 1.72 million spectators, compared to 812,000 since. Or half as much.

The Palme d’Or for theatrical success

To find the Palme d’Or film with the most success in theaters, you have to go back to… 1953. That year, it was The wages of fear, by Henri-Georges Clouzot, which won an award and above all, it attracted 6.94 million spectators in cinemas. Enough to leave you dreaming even if, in a very relative way, this film belongs to a now bygone era, where attendance in theaters was twice as high as today.

Also on the podium, the film by a director that we found this year: Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola. In 1979, this epic and legendary fresco on the Vietnam War, the filming of which has become legendary, attracted more than 4.5 million spectators. Proportionally lower, the entries ofA man and a woman of Claude Lelouch (4.27 million in 1966), of Cheetah (3.65 million in 1963) or even Taxi Driver (8th at the 1976 box office with 2.69 million admissions) nevertheless “did the job”.

And to finish this top, how can we not mention pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino which attracted more than 2.8 million people in theaters. “Perfect. Personally, I find it good”, The Wolf would say.

The palms at the bottom of the ranking

But not all directors are alchemists who transform their Palme d’Or into success. So of course, the Cannes Festival preferring arthouse films, its Palmes d’Or do not compete in the same category as big-budget productions, box office stars.

If Anatomy of a fall was a success in theaters, needless to say that compared to Oppenheimer by Christopher Nolan which has had nearly 4.5 million admissions in France, or even barbie by Greta Gerwig, the balance of power seems a little unbalanced, given the more than five million entries for the film by the President of the 2024 jury.

The fact remains that Justine Triet’s work remains a success against certain Palmes. Who remembers The word given, by the Brazilian Anselmo Duarte, awarded in 1962 and watched by 204,000 spectators in theaters? Or even Best intentions (1992) by Bille August, which holds the record for the smallest number of spectators (92,000)?

Excluding the 2023 edition, the last ten award-winning films have broken unpopularity records. Out of ten Palmes, eight of them did not enter the Top 50 at the box office. The last two, Titanium (2021) and satire Without filter (2022) only attracted a few informed audiences. For Julia Ducourneau’s film, 303,610 people came to see it in the cinema.

Ruben Ostlund’s film only garnered 568,281 admissions. Which is still four times more spectators than the film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which won an award in 2010. Uncle Boonmee (the one who remembers his past lives) attracted only 127,000 spectators in France. Which is not even double the number of inhabitants in Cannes…

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