The 61st Venice Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday night with ablack tie opening ceremony attended by a host of stars, followed by theout-of-competition screening of Steven Spielberg's The Terminal.

Stars who walked up the red carpet included Spike Lee andScarlett Johansson, who are bothserving on the competition jury, as well as John Travolta, Denzel Washington,Meryl Streep, Raoul Bova, and Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy and his Frenchactress wife Clotilde Coureau.

Around 900 guests later attended a party at the Excelsior Hotel,with many more vying for tickets, in what is already revving up to be -organisers hope - one of the most glamorous Venice festivals in recentyears.

Hot titles that will unspool on the Laguna during the 10-day festivalinclude Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, SkyCaptain and The World of Tomorrow with Jude Law,Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie and JonathanGlazer's Birth withNicole Kidman.

The festival - helmed for the first time by Marco Mueller - willalso host the world premiere of Japanese animation Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki - marking the event'sfirst animation feature in competition in 30 years.

Meanwhile, the local media reported that special anti-terrorismpolice squads will survey the Laguna waters around St Mark's Square onSeptember 10, where the festival's closing film, animation feature SharkTale, will be screened.

Thousands ofspectators, including Robert De Niro and Angelina Jolie who leant their voicesto the film, are expected to attend the world premiere on the celebratedPiazza.