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Johnny Depp, Eddie Redmayne Films Energize Venice Market

Galvanized by star-laden titles, which brought Jake Gyllenhaal (“Everest”), Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”), Eddy Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) and Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult (“Equals”) to the Lido — and a star-studded glam jury including Elizabeth Banks and Diane Kruger — its looks as if the 72nd Venice Film Festival will down as one of the highest-profile in recent years as the fest nears its midpoint.

Oscar speculation ran rife. “Danish Girl” received a 1o-minute standing ovation at its Venice gala world premiere with Redmayne earmarked as a clear Academy Awards contender. As was Depp, whose press conference was packed.

A brace of early films charmed critics, led by “Spotlight” with Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Adams, with many reckoning it was director Tom McCarthy’s best work to date; and “Marguerite,” which Variety critic Peter Debruge called “an exquisite satire.”

“Venice is not so much of a film market as Toronto. But the press is very reactive in Venice,” said Films Boutique’s Jean-Christophe Simon, adding that the positive reaction to Alexander Sokurov’s “Francofonia” will help him sell it in Toronto.

Most Venice dealing, at least through Sunday, was very much a work in progress, as prominent sales agents also used the chance to position titles before Toronto business.

Of heftier titles on the international market, IM Global had pre-sold most of the world on Atom Egoyan’s competition title “Remember”; Mister Smith Entertainment announced major territory sales on “Equals,” including the U.K. (Icon), Scandinavia (Svensk), France (Selective Films/Orange) and Italy (Adler Entertainment), France (Diaphana), Australia (Vendetta), Latin America (20th Century Fox) and Spain (Warner Bros.).  Film Factory’s Vicente Canales said Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” received offers after its Venice premiere.

In the Venice Film Market’s biggest announced deal, Cohen Media Group acquired U.S. rights to Xavier Giannoli’s French period comedy “Marguerite,” handled by Memento Films Intl.

Film Factory closed Italy with Claudia Bedogni’s new genre label Satine Noir on Spanish action thriller “Retribution.”

U.S. distributor Silver Sword Intl. acquired distribution rights for Italy, France, Spain and Germany on “Final Vatican Conspiracy,” detailing evidence of Catholic Church corruption, from Canada’s Stark Prods.

Multiple titles — including Amos Gitai’s political thriller “Rabin, the Last Day,” drama “Blood of My Blood” from Italian vet Marco Bellocchio and Turk Ermin Alper’s “Frenzy,” both from Match Factory — still have to play competition. Of buzz titles, there was large anticipation for Lorenzo Vigas’ relationship drama “From Afar,” sold by Celluloid Dreams.

Attendance at the Venice Film Market stood stable vs. 2014 at 1,387 delegates, said VFM director Pascal Diot. The two-day European Gap Financing Market saw 246 meetings — 37% up on its inaugural 2014 edition. Stats a sign that the VFM, launched in 2012, is consolidating as a still-growing business facility.

“It’s a relationship business, so it’s great to have time to sit down and have quality meetings. Plus it’s Venice,” said Andy Whittaker, founder of U.K. distributor Dogwoof.

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