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Venice fest lowers prices, improves services

Baratta aims to make event affordable

The Venice Film Festival is finally making a push to become more competitively priced and user-friendly.

For the fest’s upcoming 68th edition — Aug. 31-Sept. 10 — agreements have been reached with several luxury hotels to offer reduced festival rates for industryites. The Venice Biennale, the fest’s parent organization, will also take over management of key areas on the Lido festival grounds to provide better, and cheaper, services, including food and refreshments.

“There is a new spirit of collaboration between us, the city of Venice and the hotels,” Biennale prexy Paolo Baratta told Variety. “And there is also an increased awareness of what being competitive really means.”

The Biennale’s competitive rates deal will apply to the fest’s main hotel hub on the Lido, the Hotel Excelsior, and to two top facilities in Venice proper, the Hotel Danieli, where Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp stayed in “The Tourist,” and the Hotel Europa and Regina. Both are five-star hotels on the Grand Canal.

“We now have a large allotment of top quality rooms at reasonable rates at our disposal, both for official delegations and for other festival attendees,” Baratta enthused.

He added that this was “an important first step” in resolving what has been an ongoing “tug of war” with hotel owners over prices. The cost of attending the Venice fest has long been cited as a sore spot by industryites.

Addressing another recurring Lido lament, Baratta said all spaces inside and outside the Excelsior, including the terrace and pool area, will be managed directly by the Biennale, to offer better food and beverage services.

The fest will also directly manage the Lion’s Bar and outlying area, which Baratta described as “the festival’s navel” and “an area which in the past has caused us some embarrassment.”Meanwhile, as work progresses on Venice’s new futuristic Palazzo del Cinema, which is on track for completion by 2012, the Sala Grande venue in the existing Palazzo is being refurbished and restored to its original 1937 splendor for the upcoming edition.

“We want the Sala Grande to become the symbol of our quality brand as being the oldest festival in the world,” said Baratta, adding that architects and decorators are at work remodeling the historic venue, which will have new brown velvet seating and will give opening and closing night galas “another tone.”

Baratta also announced that the Lido would have free Wi-Fi throughout the fest grounds, which should make journos happy.

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