Now that China is open, Cannes’ red carpet business has kicked in, with scores of Chinese stars, influencers and total unknowns flooding the festival’s famous promenade.
What’s lesser known is mostly red carpet enthusiasts rather than movie buffs. Before the pandemic, a healthy business model already existed to serve Chinese influencers who wanted to walk the carpet like stars.
They all dress up, put on makeup, attend various premieres, and then get kicked off the carpet by security to block the real celebrities. At home, their social media is filled with elegant poses and images of spending the night among the stars.
There is a special Chinese verb “ceng” for people who show up on the red carpet for the sole purpose of being seen. And ‘Chen”s budget on the Cannes red carpet has definitely increased.
This year marks their first comeback since the pandemic, and business is booming.
Ticket prices for opening and closing nights range from €7,000 to €10,000, including a limousine ride. And there are other Chinese experts in Cannes who are ready. An edited three-minute video of him costs between €2,000 and €3,000, while Red’s pictures of him on the carpet can be purchased in sets of four for around €300 to €500.
Five-day show-off packages are sold and typically include tickets, photos and video clips. These range from RMB 250,000 to RMB 400,000, or $35,000 to $56,500. These packages are for ‘Chen’ regulars who book well in advance. Makeup and styling, including a borrowed dress, is also included in the package.
A more elegant way to attend the red carpet is to sponsor a brand or media company.
Former Chinese actor Jia Nailiang, who turned live-streaming shopping after a lackluster acting career, hit the Cannes red carpet. He is currently one of his top sellers on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, with his daily sales running into millions of dollars. Nailiang had rather blank eyes. No one knew who he was. The paparazzi took a break to rest his arms as he waved down the red carpet.
But Gia was very busy in Cannes. Besides walking the red carpet, he was also streaming. Someone like Gia was likely invited to come to Cannes by the brand, and the company offered the chance to walk the red carpet.
Media such as Figaro China also hosted their own parties in Cannes, emulating Vanity Fair and W magazine. The party was probably worth the expense, as the brand is looking for celebrities to promote their products in the Chinese market. A one-time sponsorship is a good way to start a relationship.
One of the highlights of this year’s Cannes was Fan Bingbing’s return to public life in China. Social media loved her numerous off-the-shoulder extravagant outfits. There was also speculation that she had more than 20 packages on her way to Cannes.
The fact that she trended at Cannes means her ban is over. Celebrity bans in China come in varying degrees, so fans need ample backing to return. Just a year before her, she wasn’t even allowed to sell her own cosmetic line direct-to-her-streaming in her shop.
She was invited not only to the opening night, but also to any party. The comeback was complete. However, her fans weren’t completely banned and her work as an actress remained available during that time. This indicates that one day she will return. Other banned actors were punished with a complete ban on their presence on the Internet in China, as well as all their presence in film, television and online streaming.
Two Chinese films submitted to the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival’s competition section also attracted attention in China. Both films starred Chinese A-list actors.
Chinese producers are very tight-lipped about the film before its official release in China. One producer told me: “A loose lip sinks a ship.
There was literally no word about Wang Bin’s film Youth: Spring. This was the only Chinese filmmaker’s work submitted to the main competition. Mr. Wang is an internationally renowned documentary filmmaker. His films tell the story of the everyday life of the average Chinese. There are many foul and harsh words. Not very attractive. His films have not been released in China.
For those who star in Wang’s films, the Cannes Film Festival is nothing more than a red carpet. The fact that the festival made Chinese films internationally famous is completely forgotten by the current generation of Chinese film fans.
So, with the ideological divide widening between China and the West, the Cannes Film Festival is likely to remain on the rug for the Chinese for the foreseeable future.
Editor’s Note: The China File is a regular column by Hung Huang that provides observations on developments in China.