The 65th Venice Film Festival artistic director Marco Muller has confirmed that next year's festival will open later, on September 2. More significantly, he said that the shift to the first Wednesday in September would be a permanent one.

That means that, while the next two years will not see a significant change from previous years in the Venice and Toronto axis, the festivals could effectively overlap in 2011, with Venice starting on Wednesday September 7, 2011, and Toronto on Thursday, September 8, 2011. The next year, 2012, will be similar with start dates of September 5 and 6 respectively.

TIFF co-director and TIFFG CEO Piers Handling went on the record yesterday to comment on Mueller's statement. 'Toronto has started on the first Thursday after Labour Day for the thirty years,' he said.

'We are both members in good standing of FIAPF which regulates the dates of film festivals,' he said. 'We've had a terrific relationship with Venice over the years. Marco has not talked to me nor has FIAPF informed me of an official date change. So until that happens it's entirely speculation.

Meanwhile in Venice Muller added that as of next year financing would be available for the festival to invite more North American buyers to the Lido and that he was already in negotiation with Venice's 'natural' partners on the 2009 programme.

'We chose to gamble this year on innovation and invention, rather than repeat what has been successful in recent years,' he said, stressing that the Venice line-up only reflected the best of what was available in the international marketplace in the second half of the year.

'Two elements were missing,' he admitted. 'The Hollywood majors and spectacular films which can entertain - some turned out to be not as entertaining as they should have been. It's like mayonnaise; too much oil and it will not bind. Next year, we are already confident that the binding is secure.'

In the face of criticism of an uneven programme, in particular from an Italian press irate at the lack of major-league star-power on the Lido, Muller said his line-up was the best available. 'I don't see any absence,' he said. 'There is some other strong product which won't be ready until October or later - the inclusion of those would have made a different festival.'

Venice 08 suffered a succession of early-festival misfires and, after Brad Pitt and George Clooney's opening Burn After Reading appearance, a lack of the steady-stream of stars the Lido is used to, particularly in the first weekend. Competition titles Inju, Plastic City, Nuit de Chien and Paper Soldier were deemed critical failures, and following a successful Cannes the record number of Italian titles in the programme (four) failed to maintain the momentum.

But, unusually, the pace began to pick up again towards the end with Golden Lion favourite Birdwatchers followed by the three well-received American titles: Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker and Venice regular Aronofsky's The Wrestler, which features the type of comeback performance from Mickey Rourke which will ensure the film's Venice launchpad is remembered.

The late-festival timing of the three US world premieres was deliberate, said Muller. 'We have to prove we can exist; face down the competition in the most relaxed way, knowing that the [international marketplace] understands the importance of a Venice world premiere.'

Denis Seguin contributed to this report