Cannes canned? Why 'Vanity Fair' cancelled its all-star party

The magazine is just one of a number of regular film-festival hosts cutting the fun factor on the Croisette
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The Independent Culture

Whether it is Lindsay Lohan losing her passport after too much merry-making, or Paris Hilton flashing her knickers to the delight of assembled photographers, the Cannes Film Festival's many parties have long become synonymous with bad behaviour, as well as A-list glamour courtesy of the film-making elite.

All that is set to change. A slew of upmarket party hosts who regularly hold parties at the festival, which begins next Wednesday, are this year choosing not to hold lavish bashes – previously known as much for their celebrity excess as they are for industry professionals hoping to strike a film deal. Glossy magazine Vanity Fair, along with London members' clubs Soho House, Century and The Hospital Club, all of which have held events in the past, are not dishing out the canapés and vintage fizz. BBC Films, the corporation's feature-film arm, which holds an annual drinks event on the Croisette, is also forgoing any bacchanalia. Observers put the decline down to a poor exchange rate between the pound and the euro and the festival's spiralling prices.

"The last two years have been lean," Screen International chief film critic Mark Adams said. "People are tightening their belts, it's a hard time for the film industry. The days where people got coaches to parties out of town are gone. The euro is not as strong, a number of South-east Asian buyers don't come over any more. With the cost of hotels and accommodation as it is, it can be very pricey."

Organisers weigh up their expenditure and time commitments before deciding whether to hold an event. This year's biggest loss will be Vanity Fair. At last year's party, held at the exclusive Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc on the Cap d'Antibes, a short taxi ride from Cannes, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter rubbed shoulders with Benicio del Toro, Harvey Weinstein and Naomi Campbell. Jennifer Lopez rubbernecked towards other celebrities at the bar; Kate Beckinsale was seen dancing badly to Frank Sinatra. "We've already hosted parties at the recent Tribeca Film Festival and co-hosted the White House Correspondents' Dinner Party," a magazine spokesperson said. "It didn't fit into our schedule."

With fewer parties comes less celebrity excess. Lohan was photographed partying last year, shortly before claiming her passport was stolen. As a result, she missed a crucial court appearance in Los Angeles relating to a 2007 conviction for driving while under the influence.

The same year, a tabloid newspaper photographed Lily Allen cavorting topless in the Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc's pool. Last year, Hilton flashed her backside at a party held by Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Chopard.

Many are staying away to avoid the hideous rises in hotel prices. The Croisette's Hotel Martinez offers its penthouse suite for £32,000 during the event. It is rented out at a quarter of the price during the rest of the year. Century spokesperson Sophie Fumey says the London club normally pays around €700,000 for 10 days to rent a space on the Croisette with which to entertain festivalgoers. It spends €300,000 on running costs on top of that. "Not many people are going this year – we think it will be mainly a local presence," she said. "A number of factors are making it just too expensive; it's not worth it for us."

According to Mark Adams, those seeking spectacle should look to one-off promotional events. In 2008, Jack Black practised kung fu to promote animation Kung Fu Panda. This year's appearance of Kung Fu Panda 2, being screened to an exclusive audience of distributors, could warrant another show-off. "But the days of aeroplanes dragging banners across the sky are gone," the critic added. "Even the opening-night films are low-key affairs."

There might be one opportunity to party, however. The British Film Institute, which took over the financing role of the UK Film Council last month, is holding a small bash. Given that the organisation has just instituted a redundancy programme, however, perhaps punters should bring their own.