Mifed reels in pix

Mart bests last yr.'s pace; U.S. dominates

VENICE — As preparation gears up for the 68th edition of Mifed, Italy’s international fall film market, the number of pics skedded to screen is already ahead of last year, with U.S. companies accounting for almost half the registrations.

Some 218 companies from 19 countries have signed up for the Milan event, which will run Oct. 28-Nov. 1, compared with 250 last year, and figures are expected to climb before registration closes.

As always, American operators account for the largest presence, with 97 companies, followed by Italy (26), Britain (22), France (15) and Germany (11). Roughly 400 features are booked to unspool, ahead of the tally this time last year, when the total ultimately reached 455.

Organizers say the increase in the profile of Asian companies with new productions having their market premieres has given Mifed a more international flavor. Key Asian orgs registered include Golden Harvest Entertainment and Media Asia Group from Hong Kong, Shochiku and Toho Intl. from Japan and the (South) Korean Film Commission.

For the first time, this year’s market will be run by an outside company, leading trade fair organizer Rassegne, which took over the event this spring. While few changes are expected, the company has been forced to respond to complaints from Mifed regulars about shrinking stand sizes and expanding fees.

“We’ve tried not to ruin a toy that’s known the world over,” Rassegne president Giuseppe Zola told Daily Variety. “Even with recent increases, we are still the cheapest major film market in the world.”

Sole holdover from the previous management crew is Mifed veteran Elena Lloyd, who stays on as product manager.

While underlining that the situation is by no means a war, Zola confessed a rivalry remains with the now-established London Screenings, which preempts Mifed each year. But steady attendance at both indicate they can continue to coexist.

Mifed in recent years attempted to elbow London Screenings out of the picture by introducing its own Selected Screenings lineup in advance of the main market. The mini-event was scrapped this year after poor results, surviving only as a preview forum for new Italian product.

Key titles slated to appear at Mifed include Robert Altman’s period ensembler “Gosford Park,” from Capitol; Nicole Holofcener’s Telluride fest hit “Lovely and Amazing,” from Good Machine Intl.; Phillip Noyce’s Australian Aboriginal drama “Rabbit Proof Fence,” from HanWay; and Richard Eyre’s “Iris,” a biopic of late British novelist Iris Murdoch starring Judi Dench, from Intermedia.

Also scheduled are Miramax titles “Equilibrium,” by Kurt Wimmer, and Tom Tykwer’s “Heaven,” with Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi; Fine Line has Liliana Cavani’s Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Ripley’s Game,” with John Malkovich and Dougray Scott, as well as Andrew Niccol’s “Simone,” starring Al Pacino.

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