In a determined bid to aggressively encourage broader summer programming in Italy and boost the Taormina Film Festival's position as a European launchpad for US blockbusters, festival director Felice Laudadio has announced that he will yet again move the dates of the festival forward. This year's event runs June 29th to July 7th, earlier than in 2000. Next year's festival will run June 8th-16th.

"I want Taormina to become a reference point for big summer releases," he said:" But I also hope that Italian distributors will finally realise the importance of releasing Italian films during the summer months and not just the big US films."

Laudadio explained the earlier dates would fit in with next year's soccer World Cup, which will be held between May 30 and June 30. "We checked the dates on FIFA's web site and given that the preliminary rounds end on June 15th, we thought that after that lots of people will be getting up at dawn to watch matches'so we don't know how many would stay up late at night to watch the festival's screenings!"

He also said that next year he will dedicate a retrospective to both Francis Ford Coppola and Italian epic movie director Sergio Leone. Laudadio's announcement followed the July 4th screening of Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux in Taormina's open air Greek amphitheatre.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was present to receive a special Taormina Arte Diamond Award before the evening screening, which drew gasps of admiration from a crowd of thousands who watched the movie against the backdrop of an erupting Mount Etna.