Venice date shift sets up showdown with Toronto

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The Venice Film Festival might be on a fresh collision course with rival Toronto.

Venice artistic director Marco Mueller said Wednesday that next year's festival will start Sept. 2 — a date likely to result in a significant overlap with Toronto.

The two festivals usually cross, but only for a few days. Venice got under way this year on Aug. 27, with Toronto to kick off eight days later. But a Sept. 2 start date — Aug. 25 would be more in line with Venice's recent history — could force many filmmakers to decide between the events rather than appear at both, as has been common of late.

Mueller said Venice's growing rivalry with Toronto had an impact on the way films on the Lido were scheduled this year.

Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married," Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" are among the major titles screening during Venice's homestretch.

Mueller said that backloading the festival with major titles was intentional. "We have to give people a reason to pay attention to us once Toronto starts up," he said.

This year, Venice has been the subject of criticism in the Italian press, in part because of the relative absence of big names. Venice officials blame the trend on the WGA strike in the U.S., which they said prevented many projects from being completed in time to come to Venice, and a weak dollar that has made the Lido unusually expensive for U.S.-based visitors.

But Mueller said things will be back to normal next year. The festival already has agreed in principle to screen two "major" Hollywood films made by Venice regulars, he said. (partialdiff)
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