The Ultimate Cannes Film Festival Guide: Three Days in Cannes
Table of contents
- Why the Three Days In Cannes program?
- Which session to apply for
- Applying for your accreditation
- Preparing for your trip
- Getting tickets
- Attending Cannes
- Cheat sheet
Did you know that anyone can attend the Cannes Film Festival? It’s an amazing opportunity for any film lover, but the process to get in is hard to navigate on your own. Once you are in, getting the most out of your experience can be daunting as well.
If you’re eligible, we highly recommend the “Three Days in Cannes” program. This guide will explain how this program works and how to make the most of it.
While this guide is detailed, there is a Cheat Sheet section at the end that provides a super-summarized version of what you need to do to apply and prepare for this experience.
Note that the Three Days program is relatively new — it only started in 2018. The festival organizers are changing the experience every year, and this guide reflects how the program worked as of 2023.
Why the Three Days In Cannes program?
The most important things to know about the Three Days program:
Like the name suggests, you are only able to attend for three days (the entire festival is two weeks)
You must be 28 and under to be eligible for this program
You get access to the entire official program
The only other way to get accredited, besides being in the industry or press, is through the Cinephile program. Cinephiles can attend for the entire two weeks of the festival — however, they have limited access to the official program, and can only get advanced tickets specifically for Cinephile badges. This means it’s much harder to get into the main theaters and premieres, and you’re restricted to a smaller selection of screenings.
As such, Three Days is likely a better experience than the Cinephiles program for those eligible.
Turning 29? You’re fine as long as you’re 28 by the time applications end.
Which session to apply for
As part of the application process, you must decide which three days to attend: the first three days, the middle three days, or the last three days.
An example schedule of your options for which 3 days to attend (from 2023).
If you care more about watching more movies, we recommend the last three days. As the festival progresses, there will be more repeat screenings of films that premiered earlier. For the final three days only, there is a special theater called Les Arcades specifically for Three Days in Cannes badges, which makes getting tickets for popular movies much easier. Not only will you have way more screenings to choose from, but you’ll also know about the buzz around movies that screened earlier in the ceremony, giving you a better idea of what to watch.
If you’re lucky or willing to wait hours in line, you’ll also be able to attend the closing ceremony, where the jury gives out awards and then screen an exclusive closing film.
If your goal is to see or meet people in the industry, the first three days are the best. More important people are around during this time. Note that the first day won’t have many screenings. The middle three days are a mixed bag. More films will have premiered and there may be a buzzy premiere like Killers of the Flower Moon in 2023, but those will always be very difficult to get into.
For most people, the last three days are the best way to get the most out of the festival. But regardless of which you choose, any three days in Cannes should still be an amazing time.
Les Arcades, the venue where the special 3 Days in Cannes screenings are held. It has three theaters of different sizes.
Applying for your accreditation
Apply for the Three Days accreditation here. Applications open at the beginning of February, and you should apply as early as you can. Acceptances are given out on a rolling basis – you should hear back in a few weeks. Applying later runs the risk of the program running out of spots.
The most time-consuming part of your application will be writing a letter of motivation. This letter should be roughly one to two pages and should describe your passion for film. Check out an example letter that Eric wrote for his first application.
Besides the letter, it’s a standard application form where you fill in some personal details. You will be asked to submit a photo of yourself, which will get printed on your badge. This does not need to be a boring ID photo – feel free to use a glamorous headshot so your badge will look nice!
There is a €20 environmental fee to apply, which goes toward carbon offsets.
Preparing for your trip
Choose accommodations and flights
Finding accommodations will be difficult, so book early. Within your budget, optimize for proximity to the Palais des Festivals. With plenty of listings offering free cancellations, you should book a place before you even apply for accreditation. We suggest booking 4 nights, arriving the day before and leaving the day after.
Try to stay somewhere within walking distance of the Palais des Festivals.
For flights, you should fly to the airport in Nice. It’s likely okay to book your flight after you get your acceptance. From the Nice airport, there’s a train that will take you to Cannes in under an hour. Ideally leave enough time so that you can pick up your badge before the office closes (in 2023, it closed at 6pm). This way you’ll be able to catch an early screening the next morning.
Prepare formal attire
For evening screenings at the main theaters (Grand Théâtre Lumière and Salle Debussy), you must wear formal attire. For men, you need a dark suit, dress shirt, bow tie, and dress shoes. They are very strict about the men’s dress code. For women, any formal dress and shoes should be fine. If you don’t already have formal attire ready, budget time to get some after your application is accepted. Also note that for evening screenings, you cannot bring large bags such as tote bags.
Casual attire is totally fine outside of the evening screenings, as are larger bags.
Figuring out what movies to see
Every film at Cannes screens under a program. The most popular films by established directors are typically in the “In Competition” and “Out of Competition” programs, which are screened at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the other programs, though – it’s always fun to find talented up-and-coming directors as well.
Cannes will announce the festival line-up about a month before the beginning of the festival. To get this information as soon as it is released, you can follow them on Twitter.
If you already have a good idea of how you'd choose which movies to see, you can skip the rest of this section.
The best way to get a pulse for what movies to see is to follow film critics on social media. This can be more effort than most would prefer, because you need to familiarize yourself with certain critics to get a feel for if they provide good signals for whether you'll like a film.
There are lower-effort ways to figure out what to watch. We recommend the following resources that aggregate critic sentiment:
- Twitter. For example, when Cannes announces the festival line-up, they make a tweet for every movie they announce. Here’s an example of the tweets they made for the 2023 festival. On the day they announce this year’s line-up, see which tweets have the most engagement for a sense of what people are excited for.
- Reddit. The subreddit /r/oscarrace loves to speculate which movies will perform well, so it’s worthwhile to see what people are saying when the line-up is announced. During the festival, this subreddit will aggregate critics’ opinions right after a premiere, making it very convenient to get a feel for what’s popular.
Critic reviews are released right after the premiere of a movie at Cannes.
The online ticketing system is the only way for Three Days in Cannes participants to directly get tickets. This system has many important restrictions:
You are not allowed to get multiple tickets to the same movie, even for different screenings. So if you want to change what time you want to see a movie, you have to give up your current screening first (and could risk not being able to get either screening!)
You are not allowed to get tickets to screenings that overlap in time. Again, you need to give up your current screening to even have a chance at getting the alternate ticket you want.
You are not able to see the availability of tickets for screenings you aren’t allowed to go to. If possible, work together with friends. One person without a conflicting ticket can check ticket availability for the other person.
When booking tickets, make sure to consider:
Travel time between theaters.
For example, the Cineum theaters are a 20 minute bus ride away from the rest of the theaters. If you’re trying to watch a lot of movies, avoid Cineum screenings if possible.
For evening premieres at the Lumiere, leave extra time to get through security (there will be more barriers and fences) around the theater and the red carpet.
Time to change into formal attire before evening premieres.
Time to eat and take breaks!
Screenings generally start on time. When cast and crew are in attendance, there may be a long standing ovation, and they may say a few words afterward.
You can attend back to back screenings in the same theater, but you’ll have to exit and reenter to scan your badge and go through security, if applicable.
There is no assigned seating. Add buffer time to get more desirable seats. In the Grand Théâtre Lumière, seats are assigned into a section (orchestra, balcony, corbeille) but not a specific seat.
Before you arrive
You will be able to see the schedule on Cannes’ ticketing system well before tickets are released. Take this time to put together an ideal schedule, including backups in case the tickets you wanted are gone. Note that additional screenings get added right before and during the festival, so keep an eye out for these, and be prepared to change plans. Tickets are claimed quickly, so you should be ready to book tickets as soon as they are released.
Save the URLs of the screening pages you plan to book in a document — the ticketing website will not be accessible right before tickets open, so having a direct link to these pages will give you a better chance of getting a ticket.
Tickets will be released four days before at 9am Cannes time (double check this time with Cannes, it could change in future years). Whatever time that is in your time zone, set an alarm a few minutes before that in order to be first in line for tickets.
The dreaded queue screen before the ticketing system opens.
Once it’s time to book your tickets, have tabs open for all the screening URLs you saved earlier. You should prioritize non-Three Days evening screenings and any screenings for particularly popular movies. (It will be easy to get into morning screenings without a ticket using the Last Minute Line. Screenings specific to Three Days badges will also be easier to get.) Other Cannes attendees get ticket access earlier than those in Three Days, so tickets might be gone before you even get access.
Yes, you will have to do this process for 3 days straight. If you aren't able to get tickets right when they release, there's a low chance you'll be able to get any tickets prior to the start of your three days.
Note that getting tickets on days with fewer screenings will be more difficult.
Throughout the event
Don’t worry if you go into the festival with few or no tickets! Availability is always changing, and there are a few other ways to get into screenings:
If you do not have tickets for a screening you want to attend, there will be a Last Minute Line that often allows a lot of people in. For morning screenings, you can usually get in by showing up right before the movie starts. Otherwise, you’ll want to line up for at least an hour, possibly multiple hours, depending on how popular the movie is. Some of the most popular movies, as well as the closing ceremony, can have a line where you need to show up 4-6 hours early!
When anyone gives up their tickets, it will be up for grabs on the ticketing system. For any screening that you really want, you can spend your down time at Cannes refreshing the ticket page to see if any availability comes up.
There is a Three Days in Cannes Facebook group that is useful for finding people giving away or trading tickets. A lot of ticket exchanges happen in WhatsApp chats, which you should be able to find through this Facebook group.
You can also try making a sign to beg for tickets near the red carpet. We have no idea how often this works.
Note that you will be penalized for not attending a screening you have a ticket for. To avoid a penalty, you need to release a ticket at least 30 minutes before the movie starts (1 hour for the Lumiere). You will not be able to book tickets after you fail to attend two screenings. We recommend giving up morning tickets the night before if you’re not sure you can make them – the ticketing system won’t be open until 9am for Three Days badges, so you can’t release tickets for 8:30am or 9am screenings that day. Other attendees who forget to release their tickets may also post in WhatsApp chats to give them away and avoid the penalty.
A very relaxed Last Minute Line at the Grand Théâtre Lumière at 9am.
Before Your 3 Days
Pick up your badge the day before your three days starts. You will need to show your ID to pick up your badge. The badge office closed at 6pm in 2023. This day is also a good opportunity to buy merchandise from the gift shop. Be sure to show your badge for 20% off.
A small sample of the merchandise available at the gift shop.
On the day before your 3 days, there may be festival events open to the public. You can attend these even though your badge only activates the next day! Keep your eyes out for these events in the festival schedule. For example, Cannes screens classic movies at the beach (the Cinéma de la plage). There also may be screenings past midnight the evening before your 3 days begins. You won’t be able to book tickets for these, but you can stand in the Last Minute Line and enter with your badge after midnight.
If you're staying in Cannes beyond your 3 days, consider parallel competitions such as Semaine de la Critique or Directors’ Fortnight. They run during the same time and do not require a Cannes badge. You can sign up on the ticketing website with a different email to access those screenings which are open to the public.
Attending Screenings and Events
In addition to the dress code mentioned previously, note that you shouldn’t bring big bags or food in open containers into the theaters.
For screenings where you already have a ticket, plan to arrive early. You can lose your seat to folks in the last minute line if you don’t arrive on time. There is also no assigned seating, so being early will help you get better seats.
Each movie will support both French and English. If the movie is in neither language, French subtitles will be shown on screen, with English subtitles projected below.
The block below the screen is where English subtitles will appear. Before the screening begins, the red carpet will be broadcast from outside.
If you plan on waiting in last minute lines, be aware that Cannes can get very hot in May. Prepare appropriate clothes and sun protection.
You can attend the opening/closing ceremonies if you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, or if you are okay with waiting >4 hours in line. They will also have screens outside of the theatre that broadcast the event, so you can watch outside as well. Note that much of the event is in French.
The Red Carpet
The famous red carpet that leads to the Grand Théâtre Lumière is fenced off, and paparazzi and tourists flock to these fences to try to see celebrities. You can try to wade through this crowd before the premiere of a movie if there's a particular celebrity you really want to see.
When you attend a screening at the Grand Théâtre Lumière, you enter through this red carpet, which is a great experience, especially if you're dressed up. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos on the red carpet, but it's not too difficult to sneak a quick photo. If you get into a screening in the Grand Théâtre Lumière via the Last Minute Line, you’ll be hurried into the theater right before the screening starts, so there’s little time to enjoy your moment on the famous steps.
If you’re in the Last Minute Line at the Grand Théâtre Lumière, you’ll be lining up right next to the red carpet and may be able to catch a glimpse between the rows of photographers and when they ascend the steps. The large screen in the front of the building will also be broadcasting a video feed of the red carpet.
The Last Minute Line at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. The red carpet is to the right.
Manage your time and energy
Make sure you are well-rested. If possible, try to adjust to the Cannes time zone ahead of time, otherwise your body will be begging for sleep during a movie.
Budget time in your schedule for food. With lots of movies to attend, be prepared to find ready-made food nearby. Keep in mind that sit-down restaurants in Cannes can have quite slow service.
Cannes is a resort town along the French Riviera. A great way to relax is to lounge on the beachfront. Pack some beach gear!
Our Experience in 2023
If you'd like to learn more about our specific experience attending Three Days in Cannes, check out my blog post.
A super-summarized list of what you should do and when.
Write your letter of motivation (see an example letter here)
Have a nice portrait photo of yourself to submit as your badge photo
Book cancelable accommodations, as close to the center of Cannes as you can afford
February 1 (until mid April)
Submit your application, preferably for the last 3 days of the festival.
Apply as early as possible to improve your acceptance chances
Once you’re accepted (likely early March, if you apply early)
Have formal attire ready
for men, a suit with dress shirt, bow tie, and dress shoes
for women, you already know what to do
Book flights, if you haven’t already.
You'll likely arrive by flying to Nice.
When planning flights, consider adjusting to the Cannes timezone early if possible, so you'll be better rested during the 3 days.
You want to be in Cannes the day before your 3 days, well before the badge office closes at 6pm.
- Cannes will announce its line-up. Start a rough plan of what movies you’d like to see.
Early and mid-May
Check screening times to figure out your ideal schedule. Have a plan, with back-ups, of what tickets you will try to book before tickets are released. Save the URLs of these screenings now.
4 days before each of the days you attend Cannes, be ready at 9am Cannes time to open the URLs you saved to book tickets. Prioritize evening tickets, tickets that are not specific to 3 Days in Cannes, and any popular movies first.
If you’re not attending the first 3 days, keep an eye out for reviews of movies that are premiering before you arrive.
Find and join Facebook groups, WhatsApp group chats, etc. where people are trading and giving away tickets.
The day before your 3 Days
Pick up your badge at the badge office. The office closes at 6pm.
If you want, buy film festival merchandise. Use your badge for 20% off.
Start looking for last minute tickets.
Optionally, keep an eye out for free festival events happening this day, like the movies at the Cinéma de la plage.
Get good rest!
During the three days
Take advantage of the last minute lines, especially in the mornings.
Keep an eye out for last-minute availability of tickets, and people giving away or trading tickets.
Enjoy the movies!
Worried this guide is out of date? The most up-to-date details about the 3 Days in Cannes program can be found on their official website.
This guide was co-written by Eric Bai and Ingrid Wang. We hope you found this helpful!