A handful of titles raise interest despite no major preems

A correction was made to this article on Sept. 21, 2004.

MILAN — Pathe’s promo reel for Danny Boyle’s “Millions” and Roger Michell’s “Enduring Love” gave American buyers something to buzz about as the 70th Mifed film market opened its doors over the weekend in Milan. Event runs through Thursday.

With Boyle red hot from “28 Days Later,” U.S. distribs have been tracking his new project closely. But its quirky premise, lack of stars and $4 million pricetag for North American rights meant they were waiting to see footage before making up their minds.

Magical realist fable concerns two Liverpool kids who find a large stash of cash and must find a way of spending it within a few days. Buyers came out of Pathe’s presentation raving about Boyle’s bravura use of special effects in the few minutes they were shown.

Distrib sources said Pathe has received at least one U.S. bid already, with more expected over the next day or two.

There was also praise for Michell’s footage, and for the first glimpse of scenes from Gurinder Chadha’s “Bride and Prejudice,” already pre-bought by Miramax.

Pathe’s reel delivered an isolated frisson of excitement in what was otherwise a typically mundane start for the Milan market. Many distribs stopped off for meetings in London the previous week, traveling to Mifed for the so-called Pre-Screenings on Saturday and then the official market opening Sunday.

No major premieres

The Saturday event, now in its second year, reported attendance up 35%, but unlike last year, there were no major premieres. Forty-two pics unspooled at the pre-screenings, including Capitol Films’ Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “Sylvia,” Fortissimo Film Sales’ “Capturing the Friedmans” and Lightning Entertainment’s “Nicotina.” Some 230 buyers made their way to screening rooms wandering through the Fiera’s hallways amid workers laying out carpeting and drilling away to assemble stands.

“Early indicators are good,” said Mifed director Carlo Bassi, noting that on Saturday, more than 500 first-time attendees who had not pre-registered — 40% of those from Asia — had made the trek to Milan.

“We are being complimented for the layout of the stands and the better service and food quality at bars and restaurants,” Bassi added.

While coffee bars were not functioning during most of the afternoon, a free happy-hour was on offer for those still in the bunker-like building at 9:30 p.m.

A Polanski ‘Twist’

Sales agents have unveiled a handful of projects at Mifed. Summit is attracting interest for its Roman Polanski project “Oliver Twist” and is selling off selected territories for the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie pic “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

Lakeshore unveiled the horror project “Cave,” to be directed by Bruce Hunt, who shot second unit on “The Matrix.” Pic, to be distributed in North America by Screen Gems, concerns a team of divers exploring a vast cave system discovered under a 14th century Romanian abbey and containing mysterious mosaics of ancient battles against an evil being.

Lakeshore is also selling Charles Dance’s directorial debut “Ladies in Lavender,” starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

Altman, Towne on tap

Capitol brought two big new titles, Robert Towne’s “Ask the Dust,” starring Colin Farrell, and Chazz Palminteri’s “Neon.” It is starting sales on Robert Altman’s previously announced untitled New York art project and is fielding U.S. buyer interest on Joel Zwick’s “Elvis Has Left the Building” and Brit kidpic “Five Children and It.”

Fortissimo Film Sales is handling foreign rights to Dylan Kidd’s “P.S. I Love You” from Gotham producer Hart Sharp. Romantic comedy stars Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden and Gabriel Byrne.

Lions Gate Intl. is selling Terry George’s “Hotel Rwanda,” the tale of the true-life heroism of a Rwandan hotel manager, starring Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte.

‘Clean’ pressed

The Works unveiled “Clean,” the first English-language movie by French maverick helmer Olivier Assayas, starring Maggie Cheung and Beatrice Dalle. It’s the story of a drug-addicted widow trying to clean up and earn the right to take care of her son again.

Meanwhile, much talk in the halls of the Fiera Milano revolved around whether anyone is likely to be coming back next year for the 71st edition. Mifed is doing its best to launch a charm offensive to woo sellers and buyers away from the American Film Market next November, but to date there’s no sign it’s working.

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