London Film Fest unveils lineup

Organizers reveal heavyweight U.S. presence at 2010 event

LONDON -- Organizers of this year's BFI London Film Festival arrived Wednesday at the lineup launch battered and bruised but not bowed from a myriad of challenges in the 10 months since the end of last year's event.

In the time since last year's British Film Institute's festival showcase, organizers have survived a scramble to find a fresh headline sponsor, turmoil in the aftermath of the announced closure of the event's key backer the U.K. Film Council and increased pressure from other events to secure show-stopping movie titles guaranteed to lure in audiences.

But with this year's event -- bookended by Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go," complete with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield to keep the flashbulbs popping, and Danny Boyle's next film after his Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" outing, "127 Hours" -- organizers have loaded up the event with more movies than last year.

Also on the roster for glittering galas during this year's festival is Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech," with Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pierce and Geoffrey Rush all sharing screen time and "Conviction," directed by Tony Goldwyn with Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Minnie Driver.

And Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," "The Kids Are Alright," from Lisa Cholodenko and "It's Kind of A Funny Story," directed and written by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are among what is a heavyweight U.S. presence at this year's festival.

Organizers hunted down American Express to replace The Times newspaper group as the event's big name sponsor amid what BFI director Amanda Nevill described as an "incredibly difficult economic climate." Backers also secured the support of Windows 7, Microsoft's operating system label.

Nevill told The Hollywood Reporter that securing the multi-year partnership for the BFI and the LFF event was essential to putting the festival together.

"Without American Express, the BFI would have faced a serious financial black hole in its LFF budget," Nevill said, while declining to give financial specifics.

There are, however, some relevant figures for context given Nevill and her fellow BFI employees aim to make the British capital shindig a player on the international film festival circuit despite what is generally considered a tiny budget.

The LFF currently posts a turnover in the region of £4.5 million ($7 million), of which around 50% comes from sponsorship and outside fund raising. A further 25% of that comes from boxoffice during the festival's two week run and 25% from the BFI itself.

According to industry insiders, the LFF's turnover is around a quarter of other major film festivals.

This time last year LFF organizers were aglow with optimism after being granted a $2 million cash injection from the U.K. Film Council's lottery fuelled cash pool, talk of a big capital investment for a movie center on the South Bank and big plans.

"Now that's all changed and we [at the BFI] are concentrating on putting together a showcase of movies for as big an audience as possible," Nevill said.

This year's festival lineup boasts 11 world, 23 international and 33 European premieres across the 16 days from the 197 features programmed to unspool. That reps four more films than last.

LFF artistic director Sandra Hebron said: "One thing that is abundantly clear is that at a time when there are significant ripples of uncertainty in the U.K. film industry, the creativity and breadth represented in our selection of British films is hugely encouraging."

The festival runs Oct. 13 through 28.
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