Venice festival attendance up over last year

Wednesday featured premiere of Ben Affleck's 'The Town'

VENICE -- Despite two days in which harsh rains severely dampened attendance at the Venice Film Festival, officials said Wednesday that the event is on pace to sell more tickets than last year.
 
As the festival starts to wind down, Wednesday's program included the out-of-competition world premiere of Ben Affleck's crime drama "The Town" and the in-competition world premieres of Abdellatif Kechiche's 19th-century-set French drama "Venus Noire" and the Greek drama "Attenberg," from Athina Rachel Tsangari.
 
Affleck's film, his second silver-screen feature as a director, screened two days after his brother Casey Affleck made his directorial debut on the Venice Lido with "I'm Still Here," a documentary about his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix.
 
Through six days, the festival reported that it had sold 22,505 tickets, 17% more than at the same time last year, and that nearly a third of them had been sold online, an increase of 76% compared with a year ago. The festival is being covered by some 3,427 credentialed journalists, a 4% increase compared with 2009.
 
"I think these figures show the extent to which interest in the festival continues to grow," Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, said Wednesday.
 
Baratta and Venice artistic director Marco Mueller on Wednesday hosted an informal lunch for some of the foreign journalists at the festival this year, and they said they had positive feedback on the festival so far.
 
Baratta said the official dates for the 2011 edition of the festival have not yet been selected but that the event would "probably" start on Aug. 24 or 31, slightly earlier than this year, when the festival got under way Sept. 1.
 
Internationally, critical feedback from the festival's lineup has been mostly positive, and there have been reports to sales filtering through already: Italian distributor Archibald announced earlier in the week that it acquired rights to the in-competition Chilean drama "Post Mortem," for example, and Adriana Chiesa reported Wednesday that the Italian film "I baci mai dati" (Kisses Never Given) had been sold in 10 territories.
 
But the Italian press still had its share of criticisms, with the daily Il Tempo saying it was "disillusioned" by this year's festival, La Repubblica critic Natalia Aspesi saying the festival lacked films aimed at film lovers, and a handful newspapers complaining that the selection of films was too left-wing.
 
The festival concludes Saturday.
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