The Venice Film Festival’s market is kicking off preceded by a flurry of activity, with several significant deals already announced during the world’s first physical place to do business after lockdown.

Though smaller than in past editions, the event – known as the Venice Production Bridge – has more than 800 mostly European accredited buyers, sellers, producers and financiers in attendance. Plus 150 more signed up for its online aspect. Roughly 400 physical meetings have already been booked through the market’s networking service. That’s symbolic of a restart.

“Our business is meeting; it’s networking, first of all,” says VPB chief Pascal Diot. “Especially for producers,” he adds. “They need to meet people, it’s simply not the same thing as a Zoom or Skype conversation.”

Meanwhile, sales announcements of Venice titles have been springing forth. Sony Pictures Classics snapped up worldwide rights to Luca Guadagnino’s Salvatore Ferragamo doc “Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams,” ahead of its premiere; fest’s opener “Lacci,” by Italy’s Daniele Luchetti (pictured) has been sold to multiple territories by France’s MK2; and Beta Cinema scored a raft of sales on “Nowhere Special” by British director Umberto Pasolini (“The Full Monty”), which screens Sept. 10.

The post-pandemic proliferation of sales is due to the fact that there are “less big American films, so European titles have more opportunities,” says Diot. Also, there are simply more available titles, since prior to past editions of Venice a larger portion of the lineup was pre-sold.

After officially starting Thursday with a presentation of VR projects being pitched, the Venice mart will segue Friday with a day dedicated to VOD and a centerpiece panel on fostering recovery of Europe’s film industry hosted by the EU’s Creative Europe MEDIA program with speakers including Beta Film CEO Jan Mojto, Mario Gianani, head of Italy’s Fremantle-owned Wildside, and Series Mania chief Laurence Herzberg.

Top European distributors/exhibitors such as Curzon, Pathe, MK2 are in attendance. And sales companies including The Match Factory, Celluloid Dreams, Charades, and many others, are on the Lido full force. There is also a robust contingent of European producers and financiers seeking to do co-productions. Compared with last year, one component what’s missing are execs from the big streamers such as Netflix and Amazon, though execs from specialty streamer MUBI made the trek.

As Diot points out, with Toronto’s industry side entirely online, the AFM also shifted online, and other events hanging in the balance, Venice could end of being the only onsite and in person film market for the remainder of this year, following Berlin in February.

So it’s a safe bet that those who are attending the Venice market will be making the most of it.