Rome Chief Makes Bigger Play for Hollywood Pix

Marco Mueller eyes pre-Thanksgiving bows

ROME — Dispelling mounting doubts, Rome Film Festival topper Marco Mueller is forging ahead despite political uncertainty undermining the  event, making a bigger play for pre-Thanksgiving Hollywood launches by adding a 2,000-seat venue.

When Mueller took Rome’s reins last year, after heading Venice for eight editions, his first move was to position the fest in the third week in November  to tie in to U.S. studio release strategies with the holiday period that begins around Thanksgiving.

Rome’s upcoming eighth edition will maintain that slot. It is scheduled to run Nov. 8-17  in the Renzo Piano-designed Auditorium Parco della Musica.

The difference, compared with last’s year event — which was assembled with tough time and logistical constraints — is that besides having the Auditorium’s other venues, Mueller has now secured the 2,000-seat Sala Santa Cecilia.
This “will allow us to host prestigious out-of-competition gala events involving the most important films of the season,” Mueller said.

“We are working non-stop on the 2013 program,” added the topper, who just attended Hong Kong’s Filmart.

The Italo blogoshpere is already floating the possibility that Rome could bow Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” for which Paramount has set a Nov. 15 U.S. release date. Both Scorsese and “Wolf” star Leonardo DiCaprio attended Rome in 2006 with “The Departed.” Scorsese also launched “Boardwalk Empire” into Europe from Rome in 2010.

A key question is whether Mueller will do away with last’s year diktat that all pics be world preems. This precluded screenings of several mainstream pics, both studio and indie, in favor of more obscure fare not always suitable to the Eternal City event’s populist pedigree.

But even more crucial is whether Mueller will be able to continue navigating Rome’s treacherous political waters under a new mayor, who is up for election in May, and also with a new governor, Nicola Zingaretti, who does not seem to be in his corner. Though sponsors provide most of its budget, reportedly $14 million last year, the Rome fest also gets a crucial chunk of public municipal, regional and state coin.

What Mueller has going for him is a three-year contract, support from key members of Italy’s film industry, mounting disgust with political interference in Italo film fests and steely resolve.

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