Construction to start head of this year's fest

The Venice Film Festival’s $100 million Palazzo del Cinema will begin construction before the fest’s Aug. 27-Sept. 6 edition.

The Lido’s badly needed new digs have cleared all red tape. Building will begin in coming weeks on the futuristic structure, housing a 2,400-seat Sala Grande theater equipped with 3-D digital projection under a shell shaped like an upside-down ship.

The complex will incorporate the old Fascist-era palazzo, restoring its original 1930’s facade but expanding its capacity to include new screening rooms and a market pavilion. There will be two elaborate catwalks with the Lido beach and the Venice lagoon as backdrops. The idea is to create a Cannes-like structure on the Lido, operating year-round as a confab center.

Venice artistic director Marco Mueller has said that construction will be kept to a minimum during fest time and turned into a construction site/event with updates for festgoers on how the building is proceeding. The plan is for completion in 2011.

Meanwhile, expect more preems at Venice, especially galas in the Piazza San Marco. Mueller, a former Locarno topper, is even dreaming of building a floating Piazza Grande within the Venice Arsenale with the lagoon all around it.

While the new palazzo is good news for Venice, the threat of a boycott announced Wednesday by Italy’s film industry in protest against the Silvio Berlusconi government’s decision to scrap film production tax breaks is not. Italo Culture Czar Sandro Bondi on Thursday said he had high hopes the incentives would be re-introduced into the budget.

The Venice Film Festival has declined comment on the dispute.

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