The new Rome Film Festival (13-21 Oct, 2006) is planning to become a major event for both the public and international industryprofessionals.

At a packed press conference in Rome's town hall, city mayorWalter Veltroni said buyers, producers and executives will be able to meet fromOct 13-16 in a business area along Rome's celebrated Via Veneto, inhotels, terraces and cafes.

Hotels will offer accredited guests seven 35mm screeningrooms, equipped with the latest digital technology. There will be fourscreenings at every site each day. Accredited companies can book screeningsthrough the Rome festival's offices.

Via Veneto hotels will also offer internet points and desks,Wi-Fi connections, information points, technical assistance and hospitalitydesks.

While festival organisers were at pains to avoid using theterm "market," they said the four-day meeting has been designed topromote co-productions, discuss film projects and seal deals.

Festival general director Giorgio Gosetti said Rome hopes toattract around 300 international industry professionals to the first edition ofthe festival, officially known as the Cinema - Festa Internazionale di Roma.

Flanked by politicians, private sponsors and industryinsiders, Veltroni said Via Veneto, which was made famous by Federico Fellini'sfilm La Dolce Vita, will be completely renovated ahead of the event.

A special bus will run every three minutes from 7 AM to 2 AMduring the event, to take spectators and accredited guests along the"festival route" from Via Veneto through the Villa Borghese park tothe Auditorium, which hosts the festival.

Overall, the Rome Film Festival will screen a maximum of 80films. The competition will premiere 14 films from around the world made byrenown directors who will gain "visibility and definitive internationalconsecration" through the festival.

A jury, headed by an international film personality andcomposed of 50 carefully selected "cinephile" members of the public,will award 200,000 Euros to the winning film. A best actor and best actressprize will also be handed out.

The festival will have seven European or internationalout-of-competition gala premieres, attended by cast and directors who will thentalk to the public about cinema. The festival will also pay tribute to theacting profession as well as one major actor, with workshops and talks all partof the programme. Sidebars this year include a retrospective on MarcelloMastroianni, on the 10th anniversary of the Italian actor's death,and a series of concerts paying tribute to Italian jazz soundtracks.

Meanwhile, Rome continues to play down rivalry with Venice.Organisers pointed out that Biennale president Davide Croff is a board memberof the Rome festival. Mario Sesti, who heads the actor sidebar, said he spoketo Venice director Marco Mueller "last week". "We know how towork together," he said.

However, organisers did also admit for the first time thatRome's position in the calendar just after Venice, Toronto and San Sebastiancould lead to some "healthy" competition.

"There will be some overlapping with other festivals interms of competition titles. But this year for example, many films were simplynot ready for September's festivals, and could have been ready for a festivalin October," festival president Goffredo Bettini said.

"Then again if there is competition we have to beserene about it," he added.

The Rome festival has a $10m budget, funded primarily by theBanca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) and other private sponsors.

Organisers said they also hope to collaborate financiallywith the Biennale, Cinecitta, AIP-Filmitalia and the Centro Sperimentale.