'Business Street' initiative a high-end venue

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RomaCinemaFest officials sometimes bristle when the initiative they have dubbed "the Business Street" is called a film market.

Spanning the first four days of the Oct. 18-27 festival, the Business Street takes place in a series of hotels lining the Italian capital's most famous street, the Via Veneto. There's not much else to it: a low-key and informal setting with minimal infrastructure. That means no booths, stands or -- as organizers are quick to point out -- pressure.

"We don't have any plans to emulate the markets at places like Cannes or Berlin," says Sylvain Auzou, manager of the Business Street. "Those places are what they are, and I don't think there's any need for another market of that type. We are trying to do something different."

Auzou and others involved say that it's difficult to determine whether the initiative that some participants have taken to calling "Market-lite" is successful in terms of dealmaking. Many deals broached in Venice or Toronto may be finalized in Rome, while others that started on the Via Veneto may not be finished until well after the festival closes.

But one measure of success is that attendence this year is likely to be up from last year. Some 250 buyers and sellers made the trip to Rome for the inaugural Business Street in 2006, and Auzou reports that interest is measurably higher this year.

"We sent out the same number of invitations and had a higher percentage respond quickly to say they were interested," he says. "And then other qualified buyers and sellers got in touch with us to ask if they could come. There is no doubt that more people are talking about it."

At last count, the number of participants was around 350 and rising, with more than 40 countries represented. The length of the Business Street this year includes an extra day, and the number of screening facilities rose from eight to 10, though some will only be used sparsely. And all that with a budget virtually unchanged from last year.

Another change from last year, according to Auzou, is an increased focus on attracting buyers and sellers from Spain, Japan, Germany and France.

"Those countries are important because they are the three main markets where real art house films have a chance for wide release," Auzou says. "We have to know the markets for the products people bring here."


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