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The Venice Film Market, which runs during the festival, is morphing into the Venice Production Bridge in a multi-pronged effort to broaden its scope while also refining its raison d’être “to become an important international production platform,” says its director Pascal Diot.

Four years after launching as a “light market” with its European Gap Financing Market and Final Cut in Venice initiatives, which provide matchmaking opportunities for works in advanced stages, the informal Lido mart has now expanded the Gap Financing event beyond Europe. It’s also gone beyond just movies to feature 40 selected international projects, including TV and web series and virtual reality content, all with at least 70% of funding in place. Final Cut is dedicated to six projects from the Middle East and North Africa region in post.

The VR offerings will include a 40-minute preview of “Jesus VR — The Story of Christ,” produced by Autumn VR and VRWERX and shot in Matera, Italy. It will screen in Venice’s new state-of-the art VR theater, which has seats that pivot 360 degrees.

The rebranded Venice Production Bridge — which runs Sept. 1-5 — is also launching a Book Adaptations Rights Area, which appears to be well-attended, though the literary entities, among which London-based agency Andrew Nuremberg Associates, are all European.

The Toronto Intl. Film Festival, which kicks off Sept. 8, “is a sellers and buyers market,” noted Diot. “We will never be able to do that,” he added. “That’s why they are focusing on production.”

Diot claims Venice is the perfect setting for producers to engage in in-depth conversations “that they just don’t have a chance to have in Cannes, Toronto or Berlin.” This, he says, can prompt the Lido to become a leading catalyst for new productions.

Venice’s new push towards becoming a prestigious platform for unfinished product complements its Biennale College initiative dedicated to development and production of micro-budget feature films from all over the world, which over the past four years has spawned 13 features, many of which have gone on to gain kudos on the international fest circuit.

In terms of attendance this year, there are more U.S. producers and broadcasters disembarking on the Lido, including execs from Netflix and HBO.

There is also a greater Chinese presence despite the absence of Chinese films in the main competition.

In a first, several Chinese titles, including Wanda Pictures’ local hit “Detective Chinatown,” directed by Chen Sicheng, are having Venice market screenings. And there are two events in Venice dedicated to China: a high-powered Focus on China organized by Italy’s motion picture association ANICA and a session of the Sino-European content lab/workshop run by the Bridging the Dragon platform which is being hosted by the fest’s independently run Venice Days section.