As Venice's first weekend wraps and Toronto's opening looms on Thursday, the traditional mid-Venice festival migration has already begun.

Industry delegates are leaving the Lido en masse, despite Venice - one of the world's most prestigious (and oldest) film festivals - continuing through Saturday.

'That's a big problem. Venice or Toronto should do something about it. It (the festivals) shouldn't overlap in the way that it does,' said Pathe head Francois Ivernel. 'You don't want to have a film in the last part of the festival.'

'I'd love stay but I've got to go,' Focus boss James Schamus said just prior to his departure on Sunday from Venice to Toronto. 'I think Marco (Mueller) has done a good job in convincing a few people they can stay a while, but it is a practical thing.'

Focus has four films in Toronto - David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, Terry George's Reservation Road, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution and Joe Wright's Atonement.

Certain buyers don't even come to Venice, but head straight to Toronto (where many of the same films will be showing). Others come to the Lido to see the movies but then close the deals in the more business-oriented Toronto.

'Venice has unquestionably a tighter selection than Toronto and, because of that, arguably more artistic cachet. But so crowded is the calendar that even a festival as prestigious as Venice is somehow threatened or undermined by Toronto with many buyers leaving early.'

James Schamus argues that there is a little 'wriggle room' and that dates could be tweaked slightly. 'Clearly, the current festival structure has reached a maximum point of utility - but it is still a very high point of utility.'

Still, some argue that if Venice and Toronto were able to shift their dates further apart, that could cause problems. 'Do I really want an entire month at film festivals' I've got to get back to the day job,' remarked one buyer.

For the Italian industry, there is plenty of work to be done in Venice, although most of the big Italian players will of course be represented in Toronto later.

Italian industry professionals questioned on the Lido agree that Toronto is fundamental to promoting Italian film in North America as well as to finalise deals, many of which begun in Venice.

Irene Bignardi, chief of promotional group Film Italia, says that while the selection varies year-to-year Toronto is among the international festivals where Italian product is given a fair shake.

'This year we have three Italian titles in world premieres at Toronto,' says Bignardi, referring to Dario Argento's The Mother of Tears; author Silvio Soldini's Days and Clouds, and Domenico Procacci's Silk.

'The festivals overlap and Toronto is important. It is clear that a certain part of the industry would act against their own interests not to go there,' she says.

But when asked what role Venice could play when it introduces (as is planned with the new Palazzo venue) a market of its own, Bignardi doesn't mince words: 'We need to see if the pocketbook of single producers can take a fifth market appointment into consideration,' she says in reference to top industry events Cannes, Berlin, AFM and Toronto.

Distributor Valerio De Paolis of Italy's BIM has five titles on this year's Venice line up - Lust, Caution; Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon; I'm Not There; Men with no Quality and It's a Free World - and as such he plans to stay close to home while another key BIM executive Antonio Medici will go to Toronto.

'The Italian industry will stay [to the end of Venice] and the international people will come here and have a couple of risottos and some prawns (before leaving) and that is perfectly all right. There is a reason why the most important titles are programmed at the start of the festival,' he says.

He said he is eyeing three unspecified titles and expects to close the deals in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Days and Clouds producer Lionello Cerri will be leaving Venice for Toronto where the film is screening in the Contemporary World Cinema section which will then move on to Rome and London.

'I believe a lot in the Toronto-Rome combination both from an artistic point of view and a business point of view. Each festival has its specificity,' said Cerri. 'Toronto gives us visibility in North America and we have already heard from three or four distributors in America as soon as the line-up was announced. This happens less over here.'