Mifed adds more pix, rivals London event

66th edition includes advance previews, 405 titles

VENICE — Organizers of the 66th edition of Mifed this fall have announced an increase in the number of films screening and a significant boost in market premieres plus several innovations including a two-day program of advance previews that will run in direct competition with the more established pre-Mifed London Screenings.

While sales outfits continue to sign up for the Oct. 17-22 Milan film and television market, the registration tally to date stands at 236 companies from 23 countries, around 50% of which come from the U.S. Next in line are Italian tradesters, accounting for 13%, followed by Brits with 11%, French companies with 5.5% and Germans with 4%.

Number of screenings up

The number of screenings slotted has climbed from 378 this time last year to 405 titles, with market premieres up from 185 to 238. Of the 117 U.S. productions already booked to screen, 84 films will make their market bow. The hefty number of titles scheduled to unspool from France, U.K., Italy, Germany and Spain underlines a boost in activity in the European film industry.

Market premieres scheduled for Mifed this year include United Artists Films’ “Flawless,” Lakeshore Intl.’s “Animal Farm,” the Shooting Gallery’s “Harlem Aria,” Miramax Intl.’s “In Too Deep,” New Line’s “Boiler Room,” Universal Pictures Intl.’s “Pitch Black” and Canal Plus’ “Simpatico.”

Taking place for the first time this year and running Oct. 14-16, the Milan Selected Screenings will preview 60 titles in seven downtown theaters for an estimated group of about 80 buyers in town early to get the jump on the main market.

But while the London Screenings have developed in recent years into a popular occasion for sellers to provide a peek at key titles, few major commercial contenders so far have been slated for the Milan preview dates.

From the U.S., 24 companies have committed to attend, but these are small indie outfits rather than heavyweight players. A stronger showing is expected from Euro sellers, particularly such French operators as UGC Intl., Gaumont and Canal Plus. However, Mifed organizers are anticipating more companies and films to be added nearer the dates.

This year sees the establishment of the Mifed Award, an annual prize to be given by a jury of industryites to the year’s best sales agent of European cinema. Given the increasing closure of international markets — the U.S. in particular — to European product, the prize was conceived to acknowledge the achievements of exporters that manage to break down those barriers and place their films in difficult territories.

The challenge facing European cinema in the global marketplace will be the subject of a major confab during Mifed. Other conferences will focus on the convergent development of film and the Internet, on the establishment and role of film commissions and on electronic communications in the biennial meeting “New Cinema, New Media.”