Shining the “Limelight” on the Cannes Film Festival Audience Conversations…

In May each year, the international film industry convenes on the French Riveria for one of cinema’s most glamorous events: the Cannes Film Festival. As well as a select band of films competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or, this most famous of film festivals also represents a frantic marketplace for distributors and filmmakers looking to secure deals and create some early buzz for a wide range of movies.

To honour the commencement of this year’s festival, EntSight is proud to present our latest analysis tool Limelight to provide audience insight for films featured at Cannes – both past and present.

Introducing Limelight

Building on a similar approach and methodology to what we’ve developed for our winning Constellation solution for Brands & Entertainment, Limelight is able to identify the key conversational trends which drive the success of movies and TV shows.

Using Limelight we can understand the key aspects of Film and TV conversations such as the impact of trailers, how the cast resonated with audiences and whether controversial subjects may have positive or negatively influenced a movies impact.

And now, through analysis of three standout Cannes movies from recent years we’ve been able to put Limelight to the test….

Toni Erdmann (Official Selection – Cannes 2016)

Premiering at the Cannes Festival in 2016, this critically lauded German comedy tells a gently satirical tale of a father trying to reconnect with his daughter via a series of increasingly elaborate Dadaist pranks. The film was warmly received at the festival itself, where it was in competition for the Palme d’Or, before going on to be nominated for a multitude of awards – including Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards. Using Limelight, we are able to pinpoint the factors of the acclaimed comedy which audiences responded to the most.

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- The most prominent factor throughout the above timeline is the film’s award-worthy pedigree. From initially being in the running for the Palme d’Or to its selection as Germany’s Best Foreign Language Film entry to finally competing for the Academy Award itself, audiences clearly recognised the award potential within “Toni Erdmann” during the first year of its release

- On its debut on May 9th at Cannes 2016, we can see that “Sense of Humour” was the most prevalent factor in the audience’s initial response. While a “German comedy” would have been considered something of an oxymoron by English-speaking viewers, we can see by the sentiment generated below how much “Toni Erdmann” usurped that assumption:

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- The most surprising aspect of Limelight’s results is that “I.P. Familiarity” registered strongly with audiences. We determined this was due to Variety reporting on February 7th, 2017 that an American remake of “Toni Erdmann” had been greenlit with Jack Nicholson in the title role, hence the Oscar-winning actor’s prevalence in the word cloud below:

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Okja (Official Selection – Cannes 2017)

Despite the streaming giant’s name already being a dirty word at Cannes, this Netflix production still resonated strongly with audiences at the festival in 2017 where it received a four-minute standing ovation during its premiere. “Okja” is an ecologically-aware sci-fi film by cult South Korean director Bong Joon-ho centred around a young Korean girl’s globe-spanning crusade to save a genetically engineered giant pig from slaughter to solve a hunger crisis. Starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano, “Okja” represents the typical odd-ball, yet socially-conscious Palme d’Or contenders that Cannes is famed for. 

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- The most prominent attribute in the audience response to “Okja” is “Promotional Material”, demonstrating yet again Netflix’s consummate marketing abilities in promoting its content.

- A further sign of Netflix’s strong messaging for “Okja” is the large audience response towards “Originality/Freshness”. We can see on the timeline below, the spikes in attention towards this particular factor coincide with the release of the teaser (27th Feb), trailer (15th May), and the film’s debut (26th June) on the streaming platform:

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- It is also not surprising to see the prevalent responses to “Actor/Performance” and “Director/Producer”. The big name cast and a director who has earned a significant following thanks to his previous acclaimed films, such as “The Host” (2006) and “Snowpiercer” (2013), clearly drove these attributes as evidenced in the word cloud below:

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BlacKkKlansman (Official Selection – Cannes 2018) 

Making its debut at this year’s festival, this latest Spike Lee “joint” received a ten-minute standing ovation after its premiere on Monday 14th May. “BlacKkKlansman” is, extraordinarily, based on the true story of an African-American cop going undercover into the Ku Klux Klan during the 1970’s. Starring John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington), Adam Driver, and Topher Grace, this Jordan Peele-produced comedy crime caper is Spike Lee’s most commercially viable film since “Inside Man” (2006) according to our source at this year’s festival.

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- The first trailer for “BlacKkKlansman” dropped online in conjunction with the premiere at Cannes and is driving the majority of the conversation as captured under “Promotional Material” by Limelight.

- The politically outspoken Spike Lee has been working the press circuit at this year’s festival and has targeted Donald Trump in a typically incendiary interview with the director for Vanity Fair. This is likely attracting the considerable volume of attention under the attribute “Director/Producer”, although “Get Out” director and writer Jordan Peele’s role as producer is also drawing considerable conversation share as is evident in the word cloud below:

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- With “BlacKkKlansman” still three months from release, it has yet to reach critical mass within the media cycle. However, while the volume of “Controversial Topics” is currently relatively low in Limelight, it has still provided an ample sample size of conversation to demonstrate how potentially divisive the expected controversy of the film could be on its official release based on the sentiment of this attribute below:

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- The incendiary nature of the film could be tempered by its comedic tone with Limelight picking up an overwhelmingly positive sentiment towards “Sense of Humour”:

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We at EntSight are currently looking to work with Movie and TV Producers, Scriptwriters and Director partners to help further develop 'Limelight'.

If you'd like to get involved then drop us a message here

David Murphy

David Murphy

EntSight Researcher