Holdouts hold on to film market

MILAN — The 71st Mifed film market kicked off Tuesday with an air of gloomy demise wafting through the Fiera di Milano’s almost deserted hallways, as sellers in half the usual number of stands remained determined to do as much business as possible.

The absence of all but a few U.S. and U.K. companies — most of which have opted to travel to Santa Monica for the American Film Market’s new November edition — has deprived the 44-year-old Italian industry institution of nearly half its clients.

Mifed’s final edition before its recently announced affiliation with next year’s Venice Film Festival is a shadow of its former self.

“It’s totally dead here,” moaned Paola Corvino, topper of Rome-based Intra Movies and also chief of Italy’s film exporter’s union, Unefa.

“This is it: Mifed is over,” lamented another European company sales chief.

Others were not as downbeat, with sales execs Eve Schoukroun, of the U.K.’s Capitol Films, and Tanja Meissner, of France’s Celluloid Dreams, both boasting a busy appointment schedule.

“I think before writing Mifed off, we have to wait and see what happens here, and also what happens at AFM in a few weeks,” said Michael Weber, managing director of Germany’s Bavaria Film Intl.

A total of 142 companies, mostly from Europe, are at Mifed this year, with 222 pics unspooling, 60% of them market premieres, according to organizers.

Plans to piggyback Mifed onto Venice next year, and hold the mart for a few days in Milan before moving for several days to the Lido, are the source of much speculation — particularly as the mart also will compete with the Toronto Film Festival soon after.

“It will be a completely different event, something that we are going to have to reassess once we know more about it,” said Simon de Santiago, deputy director of distribution for Spain’s Sogepaq.

“The problem with having a market in Venice is that people don’t need to go to Venice to see the same movies that they are going to see a few days later in Toronto,” he added.

At this stage, even organizers aren’t sure what Mifed may morph into, since many details of the plan announced earlier this month still need to be worked out.

“I don’t think Venice should become a market for all types of product, like Cannes or Berlin,” Mifed topper Carlo Bassi told Daily Variety on Tuesday. “The basic idea is to have our traditional client base come to Milan before Venice and then bring some of those people to the Lido, which will be geared prevalently toward arthouse product.”

Several execs at this year’s Mifed, however, said they’re not likely to go to Milan next year.

Meanwhile, Mifed has set Aug. 28 as the start date for its 2005 edition, which will unspool in Milan for three or four days before moving 150 miles east to Venice for an additional three-day stint. The Venice fest dates have not yet been set.

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