Venice Film Fest gets a great start

VENICE — The Venice Intl. Film Festival got off to one of its most lavish starts in recent memory with Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and boatloads of Hollywood stars and Italo politicos strutting their stuff on the event’s spanking new $1 million catwalk, which features 60 golden lions, repping the fest’s trophy.

The gala screening of fest opener “The Terminal” had the paparazzi screaming “Tom!! Tom!!” as Hanks and wife Rita Wilson made their way down the red carpet. But jury member Scarlett Johansson and John Travolta — co-stars of low-budget Venice Horizons opener “A Love Song For Bobby Long” — also had the flashbulbs popping.

“A festival must strive to show quality films for a mass audience,” first-time artistic director Marco Muller told attendees.

A candle-lit black-tie dinner on the Excelsior beach followed, with Sicilian white wine complementing a cornucopia of seafood.

Industryite heavyweights spotted among the 1,000 guests were UIP topper Stewart Till, Cannes prexy Gilles Jacob, Sky Italia chief Tom Mockridge and Medusa managing director Giampaolo Letta.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more