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Fest floods Venice

More studio pix, VIPs mean hotel shortage

ROME — An estimated 30% increase in guests accompanying films officially selected for the 55th Venice Intl. Film Festival has created a substantial shortage of hotel rooms for the Sept. 3-13 event, prompting fest chief Felice Laudadio to launch an alarm call to the waterlogged city’s hoteliers.

“The problem is a serious one,” Laudadio told Daily Variety. “Venice needs at least 1,000 more rooms during the festival period, and they simply are not available. We have around 200 people still trying to find accommodations, and no idea of where to put them.”

Hotels on the waterfront Lido strip, where the fest takes place, already are full during the period, and extra rooms now are being sought in Venice proper. But with this year’s later-than-usual fest dates coinciding with a number of events such as Venice’s historical regatta and the opening of major art exhibitions, hotels in the city are scarce.

Floating hotel

Laudadio drew attention to the problem during the weekend, announcing his intention to resuscitate the idea of bringing a floating hotel to the event and appealing to cruise ship owners with a luxury liner available during the period to come forward.

In 1988, the fest director discussed mounting a festival aboard a ship moored near Rimini on the Adriatic coast. While financing such a venture proved impossible at the time, Laudadio has kept the plan on a back-burner and now sees the notion of a Titanic-type vessel docked on the Lido as a logical solution to Venice’s perennial hotel woes.

“Obviously, we would be stupid if we thought seriously that a ship could be organized in Venice in only 10 days,” Laudadio confessed. “But as a call for action, it worked, because already hoteliers have contacted us with another 30 rooms that previously were unavailable. This makes me confident that a solution can be found.”

The vast increase in numbers attending the Venice fest is due in no small measure to the hefty contingents accompanying films from the U.S. majors.

While Buena Vista was the sole studio present on the Lido last year with “Air Force One,” this year’s lineup includes pics from Columbia, DreamWorks, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal and Warner. All of those studios will send substantial delegations.

With opening-night film “Saving Private Ryan” mustering troops from both DreamWorks and Paramount, close to 80 people are expected to accompany the pic, many of them also making the trip for Par’s “The Truman Show,” which screens three days later.

Those due to hit the Lido include director Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, thesps Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore and Edward Burns for “Saving Private Ryan”; and director Peter Weir with stars Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich for “The Truman Show.”

But the U.S. majors are not the only ones bringing hefty support groups. Laudadio says 44 people will make the trip with closing-night pic “Am I Beautiful?” by German director Doris Dorrie.

With such large numbers of guests requiring VIP treatment, another headache looms for Venice fest organizers in the form of a threatened strike by the city’s water-taxi drivers.

The fest topper also said he intends to push for dates to be announced during this year’s fest for Venice’s 1999 edition, allowing for hotel rooms to be reserved a full year in advance.

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