Cannes 2023: The ticketing chaos rocking the Croisette

The ticketing queues for Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny at Cannes 2023.
The ticketing queues for Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny at Cannes 2023. Copyright David mouriquand/Lucasfilm
Copyright David mouriquand/Lucasfilm
By David Mouriquand
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Or: Why I won’t be able to watch and review Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.


Cannes and sanity-corroding queuing go together like Quentin Tarantino and foot fetishes, Harrison Ford and threatening finger-pointing, Hong Sang-soo and Soju, and on-screen asparagus and doom.

Behind the perceived glitz and glamour of the Cannes Film Festival are early mornings, late nights, hours in press rooms to write up reviews, massive queues, and the never-ending nutsackery of badge colour tiers.

You see, unlike most other major film festivals, Cannes prides itself on its caste system, a badge hierarchy that puts all journalists in their place. This lunatic social ranking is here to remind us how low we really are on the food chain. 

Put simply (and ignoring the whole other headache of grey, orange and black badges for industry attendees, photographers and crew): You get a Yellow, you’re cast as a serf; a Blue signifies you’re the working class, a status you’re stuck with for what feels like eternity on the Croisette; a Pink is the middle class, a decent ranking that allows you to wait in your own special queues that do move a lot faster than the previous two; then comes the Pink with a Yellow dot, a coveted rank that essentially parachutes you in the upper-middle class with free and easy access to pretty much everything. And then there’s the holy White badge. Les Blancs. These are the 1 percenters, the chosen ones. They can watch whatever they want, arrive at the last minute and get into a screening, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard choirs of angels chanting ethereal sounds as they Cinderella into rooms and seen Cannes boss Thierry Frémaux bring them fresh coffee. Auditory and visual hallucinations aside, apparently you can't get Whites anymore. You’re either part of the elite, or you’re not. 

These coloured rankings supposedly make everything run smoother; in reality, they’re sanity-eroding tactics which highlight, in the most delightful and French way possible, how pretentious major cultural events can get. And shouting "I am not a colour, I am a free man!" won't help. Trust me, I've tried. 

Quite how these colours are attributed remains a mystery. You can climb the ranks after several years, much in the same way you can slip down very quickly. As I write these words, I’m borderline nervous that someone in charge of accreditations will take notice, dislike the cut of my jib, and demote me from my Pink.

For I am a Pink, most likely determined by the size of the outlet I work for and the frequency of our publications. I’m proud of my Pink but also rattled with imposter syndrome when faced with some of my friends and colleagues, who have been journalisming (a new verb, which is probably a contributing factor to my colour accreditation) for as long as I have – and who are in some cases, without toppling into easy self-deprecation, far superior writers by comparison – and are still lumbered with Blues.

None of it makes much sense and whenever I get faster access to queues, press conferences or even tickets, I can’t help but feel a pang of shame when thinking about my Yellow or Blue peers.

Sure, the other two major film festivals of Europe – Berlin and Venice – have their own codes and preferential treatments, but they are not as pronounced, blatant or petty as Cannes’ Divergent-style segregations. These festivals are less anxiety-triggering and seem to run smoother, with less waiting, less stress and more “We’re in this together to celebrate cinema and spend coffee and nicotine-fuelled days (and occasionally sleepless nights) making sure our accreditations mean something and that we’ve delivered the goods so our editors are pleased.”

And now, after this endless drivel, I get to the point. Congratulations on getting this far. 

Cannes may continue to use this caste system, but the online press ticketing system has been a huge talking point this year – and we’re only on Day 3 of the festival.

Since Covid, most film festivals have instigated a digital system which means that you have to pre-plan your festival several days in advance. Gone are the first-come-first-served days when you could rock up, badge around neck, to screenings; now, you reserve your press tickets when they become available online, four days in advance.

David Mouriquand
The online ticketing system of doom at Cannes.David Mouriquand

For Cannes, it’s 7am every morning. You log on, refresh the page, and get clicking to ensure you’ve got your precious open-sesame. With this comes inevitable loading waiting lines, site crashes, glitches, and the very real possibility that you might miss out on a coveted film projection.

Cannes has been experiencing a lot of SNAFUs for this 76th edition, with even the timeliest and dedicated accredited members logging on and finding certain screenings suddenly labelled with the dreaded ‘COMPLETE’ by 07:01.

This has been the case for hot tickets, like this year’s new Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon and Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny.

I managed to get my ticket for Marty, but not for Indy. Like many, I logged on in advance, hummed the theme to tune, refreshed the page repeatedly, and nada. COMPLETE. Or: “NO TICKET”, as Indy memorably said in The Last Crusade, as he tossed out an SS officer from a blimp.

This is due to several factors.

  1. Cannes stupidly not scheduling numerous screenings for these films they know everyone wants to see. This is possibly due to studios limiting things for the festival, but surely if you select a film for your line-up, the least you can do is ensure that every accredited member you’ve approved has a decent shot at getting to see it.

  2. Not adapting their system and schedule to the post-Covid ‘return to normal’. This may have worked when there were fewer people coming to the festival during the pandemic, but now that the numbers are back to pre-Covid (a rumoured 40,000 accredited members this year), you need to do the maths. If the Debussy and Bazin screens in the Palais seat respectively 1,068 and 280 people, then the least you could do is schedule multiple screenings so that those who don’t get to watch the first showing can get into the second, third or fourth. Basic stuff, really.

  3. Those damn badge colours. Bet you were wondering when the first chunk of this article was finally going to pay off... There are only a certain amount of tickets allocated for certain colours, and you can guess which ones get preferential – borderline loverlike – treatment. For instance, a colleague of mine has been able to log on to the ticketing portal and get all the tickets they desire at 7:30 in the morning. They are a Pink with a Yellow dot.

This online system (much like the tiered badges) was supposed to smooth things out and reduce queues, but make no mistake: even with a ticket, you’re still outside the venue up to an hour in advance, waiting to get in. And sometimes not, as many found out yesterday that no one has a guaranteed spot. Indeed, several ticket-holding journalists were denied their entry to the latest Almodóvar – his short film Strange Way of Life, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal. People were not happy, and understandably so.


Was it a scheduling issue or a rookie case of overbooking?

Whatever it is, many journalists have been expressing their frustration and the consensus is that whole thing is a shambles (the term clusterf**k has been making the rounds), one which is hindering critics’ ability to do their jobs, as many face losing commissions for articles and reviews if they can’t watch the films.

What Cannes needs right now is far more transparency with regards to the process and the digital ticketing system. They need to reveal how many seats are reserved for specific badges, the reason behind the lack of numerous screenings that would go some way to solve the current problem, and what the accreditation-to-number-of-seats ratio is this year. And brushing off the oversubscription issue like Cannes head honcho Thierry Frémaux did in the opening press conference by saying these films will be released in cinemas soon just won’t cut it. He did note that the festival turned away 10,000 applications for industry accreditations, spectators and professionals this year, but didn’t reduce the number of press. But at the end of the day, it boils down to: more press, more screening opportunities. An upgraded system is needed.

If all of this sounds like first world problems, you’re be right. No one is tuning the tiny violins for me or any of the accredited press members who are lucky enough to be attending Cannes, or any film festival for that matter. None of us should forget quite how privileged we are to be playing in this particular sandbox. We watch films (when we get tickets) and get to be a part of a conversation that creates this wonderful and very addictive bubble. And while the reality of festival going is a far and distant cry from the glamourous image many have, we remain incredibly lucky.

But maybe Frémaux & Co. should look to their European neighbours in Berlin and Venice, who have made badges mellow, ticketing a breeze and queuing only a minor inconvenience. If they can do it, so can Cannes.


As for Indiana Jones’ final hurrah, you’ll find me outside the Palais, cracking my imaginary whip while blubbing the theme tune through bitter tears. I can only hope that this rather pathetic image is endearing enough to my editor before he starts chanting "Kali Ma... Kali Maaaa... Kali Maaaaaaa Shakti de."

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