Cannes Fest Will Sizzle Despite Recession

There's a growing divide between the rich and super-rich, who are debating whether to show up and flaunt it at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in France or avoid it in light of the economic recession.

A few industry heavyweights have already made their decisions about the 12-day festival, which starts May 13. Vanity Fair is canceling its annual finale party and sponsors Fendi and Swarovski are pulling the red carpet out from under their brassy events at local nightclubs.

Belles Rives offers an oasis removed near Cannes.

But don't expect an empty Port du Cannes just yet. All of the 60 mega-yacht berths are booked and local catering companies are fielding Champagne and caviar requests at similar levels as previous years.

Cannes' top hotels: Contrary to many reports of falling occupancy rates among the city's luxury hotels, most have been booked for months.

The Hotel Martinez has stayed at the helm of the local hotel market since its 2002 renovation. Rooms on the hotel's penthouse level offer massive outdoor terraces and space for entertaining that even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would find plush. The hotel is also home to one of Cannes' top dining rooms and a Givenchy spa.

A hotel reservation clerk says the hotels' rooms were booked solid almost a year in advance.

French luxury chain Lucien Barriere Hotels & Casinos recently revamped its Majestic Barriere. The historic seafront hotel is home to two restaurants. One is a new outpost of Fouquet's Brasserie, which originated along the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The other is the Beach Restaurant, a sexy oceanfront eatery with a delightful Cote d'Azur menu and easy access to the hotel's renovated tanning pier. Rooms are thoroughly French with ornate red and beige decor, opulent bathrooms and mostly sea-facing views.

In past years, hotels in surrounding cities like Juan-Les-Pins, Antibes and Nice filled up with festival-goers and indie producers traveling on their own dimes. But Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-Les-Pins and the Hotel Palais De La Mediterranee in Nice still have rooms available.

Festival beach clubs: St.-Tropez's top beach club, La Voille Rouge, occupies a prime location at Plage du Palm Beach, which is part of the Palm Beach Casino. The space has been decorated in red and white for the festival, and offers rows of oceanfront chaises starting at 11 a.m. each day of the festival. The beach club will also be home to all-day DJs, $1,000 lunches and film parties at night.

La Voile Rouge will have some Cannes competition from its St. Tropez rival, Nikki Beach. The Miami-based beach club chain is setting up shop at The Grand Hotel along La Croisette. Nikki Beach, which will make its seventh appearance at the festival, will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The Cannes red carpet: Unless you work for a studio, finance films or date a movie star, you'll probably watch the arrivals on your hotel TV. This year, famed directors Ang Lee, Pedro Almodovar and Jane Campion will debut films at the festival. Director Quentin Tarantino will also screen Inglorious Bastards, which stars Pitt. The movies will compete for the coveted Palme d'Or, the festival's grand prize.

Parties and nightlife: While several corporate sponsors have pulled out of events at Cannes nightspots like Jimmy'z, Paris's VIP Room still plans to hold parties at the Palm Beach Casino. Entertainers such as Sean "Diddy" Combs have been known to perform at VIP Room events. This year, there will be more room for dancing.

Nikki Beach will also debut its first freestanding disco inside the festival space at Palais des Festivals for nightly parties from midnight to 5 a.m. Those trying to flee the fancy yacht parties can also find a late-night haven in local hotspot Le Baoli.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.