Milia tops expectations

Milia, the interactive multimedia market in Cannes, closed its doors Tuesday after reporting attendance figures well beyond the expectations of its organizers.

Not even a downpour of rain on the last day could dampen the enthusiasm of marketgoers for the event, which provided the first real international forum for debating all the complex creative and legal issues relating to the future of interactive software.

“It has been an exceedingly good event, and in surprising ways,” said Garry Hare, president of U.S. videogame firm Fathom Pictures. He reported buying a children’s title from a French company for stateside distribution, negotiating a European distribution deal for some of his products, and “two long and lucrative meetings with big companies from California.”

The only carping came from some of the smaller European book publishers who had taken stands under the impression the event would resemble more closely a conventional book fair, and then found little business to do. But even they seemed happy with how much they had learned in the first three days about the new digital medium.

Xavier Roy, chief executive of the Reed Midem Organization, a sister company of Daily Variety, said that 3,757 delegates had registered, representing 1,351 companies from 40 countries. There were 395 companies that took stands on the market floor.

Strong French presence

France provided the largest number of delegates, but more than half of the total attendance came from abroad, with the U.K. and the United States figuring prominently.

A low point was the much-anticipated presentation by Apple Computers of its multimedia software strategy, at which rock star Peter Gabriel demonstrated “Xplora,” the interactive video version of his “Us” album. Many delegates were disappointed at the pedestrian nature of the product, which revealed that the theory of what interactive software can do remains way in advance of the current practice.

For the most part, panel sessions at Milia concentrated on developing software for “off-line” digital formats, such as CD-ROM and CD-I.

However, the “on-line” digital future, otherwise known as the information superhighway, finally got some attention Tuesday with a discussion of interactive television.

Bruce Karpas, president and chief operating officer of Reiss Media Enterprises, the U.S. pay-per-view specialist, commented that the information superhighway would contain “many cars, with many people in them, driving in all different directions,” and predicted that “there will be many fatalities on the way.”

He cautioned that the enthusiasm of delegates at Milia reminded him of the excitement felt nine years ago at the start of the pay-per-view business, which has still failed to take off.

He said that the multimedia business was facing many of the same problems that the PPV sector was still grappling with.

Time Life editor John Papanek delivered an impassioned address predicting that digital technology would transform TV into something much more akin to books –“a limitless but navigable library of sight, sound and motion.”

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