Mifed shows moxie

Imperiled Milan mart makes improvements

The venerable Mifed film mart in Milan is coming out fighting against rival upstart the American Film Market, which will invade its November slot next year.

“The AFM organizers want to kill us; that much is clear,” Piergiacomo Ferrari, CEO of Mifed parent company Fiera Milano, told a Milan press conference Wednesday. “We know that this is a battle in which there will be a winner and a loser, and we are strongly determined to put up a fight and win.”

“Somebody in L.A. thinks our destiny is to become just a market for homevideo,” Mifed director Carlo Bassi added. “But not only will we remain one of the biggest film markets, we will also extend our activity to TV drama and TV formats rights, probably starting in 2004.”

With the battle in mind, the 70th Mifed (Nov. 9-13, with a prescreening day Nov. 8) has been scrambling to do away with some of its age-old ills.

This year, projection booth techies will be flown in from the U.K. to help avert screenings snags. English-speaking hostesses are being trained to give reliable directions within the Fiera’s labyrinthine building, and screening hours have been extended to 9:30 p.m. The quality of food at restaurants and snack bars also is being improved, organizers said.

“This year, we have introduced the changes that the market wanted, and more improvements will come in the next editions,” assured Ferrari.

Mifed plans to rebuild all the Fiera’s 30 screening rooms by 2005 and to start giving generous discounts to sellers as well as travel and accommodation vouchers to buyers next year.

In the final year in which it will get the slot unchallenged, Mifed is attracting a similar number of industryites as last year. Some 240 companies — about 90 from the U.S. — are booked in: Buyers have increased by 16%, and the number of films unspooling is up 2% to 495.

Miramax Intl. will premiere “Bad Santa,” while New Line Cinema will show its Christmas Will Farrell laffer “Elf.” Pathe Intl. is bringing the Danny Boyle-helmed “Millions” to the market, and Winchester Cobalt will screen Vadim Perelman drama “The House of Sand and Fog.”

Next year, Mifed will run Oct. 31- Nov. 4, while the AFM will hold two sessions, the first Feb. 25-March 3 and then Nov. 3-10. AFM eventually plans to drop the February mart.

However, the future management of Mifed is up in the air. In September, Fiera Milano pacted with the Venice Biennale and Cinecitta Holding to form a new as-yet-unnamed entity that will manage Mifed and the Venice fest’s nascent Venice Screenings mart. The power structure, budget and financing of this new entity, created by the Culture Ministry, are under discussion.

“By the end of November, the name, business plan and top management of this new entity will be announced,” Bassi said. Fiera Milano will appoint its CEO, expected to be Bassi, while Cinecitta Holding will name the president.

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