Baz Luhrmann's musical Moulin Rouge will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 9th where it will screen in competition, festival president Gilles Jacob confirmed on Tuesday.

The 20th Century Fox picture, which stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, will screen as an international premiere. The studio also announced that, based on the Cannes response to Moulin Rouge as well as reactions to early test screenings and showings of a special promo reel, it has moved up the film's domestic release date "to place it squarely into the prime summer release period."

Fox will now platform Moulin Rouge in a single run each in New York and Los Angeles on May 18th, the same weekend that Cannes ends. The film will then go nationwide a few weeks later on June 1st when it will be hoping to take advantage of all the expected media publicity from Cannes. Normally, US films that premiere at the French festival wait until at least autumn before being released domestically, by which time all the Croisette hype has dissipated.

Set in the hedonistic world of Paris' Montmartre cabaret in the 1890's, the film brings Luhrmann back to the Croisette after his debut dancing tale Strictly Ballroom became a surprise hit at Cannes in 1992.

"I still have wonderful memories from when Cannes launched my first film, Strictly Ballroom, so this is indeed an exiting announcement for me," said Luhrmann. "I find it particularly gratifying that a film backed by the US, almost entirely created in Australia and relating to the French History and culture should receive such a welcome in Cannes."

The picture, Luhrmann's third title after Ballroom and his radically post-modern rendition of William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet, beat out strong competition such as Captain Corelli's Mandolin, another international production with US backing and an A-list cast.

Francis Ford Coppola's re-cut Apocalypse Now, the centre-piece of a tribute to the film-maker at Cannes this year, was also rumoured to be in contention as a curtain-raiser.

Other Moulin cast members expected to hit Cannes for the opening bash are Kylie Minogue, Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo.

"I am especially pleased to welcome to open the festivities at Cannes a studio film that revisits the best show traditions of entertainment," said Jacob. "And also, of course, to meet Baz Luhrmann once more; an Australian director we know well since we discovered him in 1992."