The 66th Venice Film Festival kicked off the autumn festival season on Wednesday (September 2), bringing a raft of new titles to the market, a majority of which are still seeking distribution deals in major territories.
Hot titles seeking distribution deals include designer-turned-director Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which is the last competition title to screen, Fatih Akin’s much anticipated Soul Kitchen, and Giuseppe Tornatore’s $28m Sicilian epic Baaria, which will opened the festival.
But neither Ford’s debut nor Soul Kitchen will screen until the end of the festival’s second week, when many buyers will have left for the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens on September 10 and overlaps with Venice for two days.
The move suggests Venice artistic director Marco Mueller is looking to replicate last year’s successful strategy of saving the hotly-anticipated, deal-making titles until last.
Last year, Darren Aronofsky’s Golden Lion winner The Wrestler only screened the day before the jury announced its decision, and its success left buyers clamoring to negotiate deals in Toronto. The move has ensured that the last in-competition slot has become more desirable.
Stuart Ford, chief executive of IM Global, which is bringing Ford’s A Single Man to the Lido, said the company had “a detailed discussion about the timing of the screening,” which touched on the success of The Wrestler. He added: “We feel it will give the film [A Single Man] a degree of prestige and mystery and hopefully it will bounce straight on to Toronto and meet with some success there.”
Ford does not expect to be doing deals in Venice but added that it is “suitably glamorous and critically prestigious and [we hope it will] translate into a strong distribution reaction when it screens in Toronto”.
Akin’s Soul Kitchen will screen on the festival’s second to last day. It is represented by The Match Factory and is also expected to be a draw for buyers. Michael Weber, founder of The Match Factory, said that he will start developing deals at Venice, with the US and UK rights still on the table. It has pre-sold in some territories, including to BIM Distribuzione for Italy.
Meanwhile, Mueller has given a first week spot to Nu Image/Millennium Film’s Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, which has already sold out, including deals with First Look for the US and Lionsgate in the UK, according to the company’s co-chairman Avi Lerner. It means it can concentrate instead on promoting the film, ideal for pictures given early screening slots.
While “back-loading” titles onto the Venice roster could be construed as a spoiler to Toronto, the festival’s decision not to launch its own market also means it could create a greater synergy between the two events.
Mueller told ScreenDaily: “I think we have to gradually begun to strike a balance with our colleagues from Toronto.”
With the festivals’ overlapping by two days, the buyers will have largely moved on but Mueller’s strategy aims to ensure that all eyes remain on Venice.