For the first time in three years, Italy's prestigious Taormina Film Festival will once again be open to non-English language films.

Artistic director Felice Laudadio said the decision to accept international pictures to the popular summer event had been taken post-September 11th.

"Taormina will continue to be a launch-pad for summer releases; but the data we saw after September 11th showed a drop in English-language production," Laudadio told Screendaily. At the same time, after two successful "Made in English" editions, the time felt right to open up the event to other countries, he said.

Ever since he took over the festival in 2000, Laudadio has attempted to spearhead the festival's position as a European launchpad for US blockbusters, encouraging broader summer programming in Italy during the traditionally moribund months. As part of his strategy, he moved the dates of the festival forward to late June in 2001 and had originally planned an even earlier start in 2002.

Nevertheless, while Taormina did achieve a major coup with its July 4th European premiere of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux in 2001 and Mission Impossible:2's hugely successful European launch in 2000, Laudadio has found it tough to lure US stars and major Hollywood premieres to the event, particularly when still few Italian distributors are ready to release big films in the summer - despite the growing multiplex sector.

Laudadio now hopes that a significant three-year cash injection from new sponsor Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) as well as the hiring of Steve Klain, Miramax's veteran New York-based international marketing director, as a deputy director, will help further boost the international profile of the event. Klain was responsible for bringing Apocalypse Now Redux to the festival last year.

The non-competitive festival's dates have now been moved back to July 6th-13th.

Meanwhile, Laudadio also announced that he will once again take over the reins of the European Cinema Festival in Viareggio, which he successfully headed from 1989 until 1996, when he became artistic director of the Venice Film Festival.

He will move the competitive festival's dates back to their original slot of September 14-21. In the past, Viareggio's premieres have included Cinema Paradiso and My Beautiful Launderette.