Venice fest closing fete loses sponsor

ROME — The closing-night gala scheduled to cap off the 54th Venice Intl. Film Festival Sept. 6 in historic Piazza San Marco may be under threat due to the 11th-hour withdrawal of private sponsors for the evening.

Plans for the closing event were announced several weeks back by new fest director Felice Laudadio, with the awards ceremony and final film screening returning, after many years’ absence, from the Lido di Venezia to Venice proper, in the shadow of the Basilica of San Marco.

‘Richard III’ to screen

A restored print of the oldest-known American film in existence, James Deane’s 1912 “Richard III,” is to screen, with a live orchestra playing a specially written score conducted and composed by Ennio Morricone, and with narration by Vittorio Gassman.

Gianfranco Pontel, Secretary General of the Biennale, the arts council that controls the fest, confirmed that the original sponsor, watch manufacturer Omega, has withdrawn. He currently is seeking replacement sponsors. However, Pontel has given his assurance the gala will go ahead as planned, if necessary with a change of location.

“Staging the evening in Piazza San Marco involves considerable cost,” Pontel told Daily Variety. “If another sponsor doesn’t come through to cover that cost, we may have to move it back to the Lido, in the Palazzo del Cinema. But the fundamental elements of the event will remain unchanged.”

Second setback

The setback marks the second sponsorship glitch to compromise plans for the upcoming Venice fest, which opens Aug. 27. Earlier this year, Laudadio announced his intention to launch the Venice Intl. Film Market, a selective sales structure to run in tandem with the fest, showcasing quality international arthouse product. The plan has been put on hold, however, due to lack of funding.

“When I made the announcement, we were certain of having a private sponsor,” said Laudadio. “But unfortunately, the image of the company that offered us money was completely in conflict with the image of Venice, so we had to say no to a substantial sum.”

Laudadio said the research and planning that went into setting up a Venice market — which was to be organized in conjunction with Mifed — revealed major interest both from Italian and offshore buyers and sellers, and that the project will be put back on track in 1998.

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