Volkswagen's off the lot at Berlinale

Carmaker has been one of fest's three main sponsors

COLOGNE, Germany -- The Berlin International Film Festival has lost one of its main sponsors, with Volkswagen canceling its commitment for the 2010 Berlinale.

The German car giant has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and said it will not be back in Berlin for the festival's 60th anniversary in February.

Volkswagen and the Berlinale declined to put a dollar value on the company's annual contribution, but it has been estimated at nearly $2 million.

VW has been one of the three main sponsors of the fest, along with pubcaster ZDF and cosmetics group L'Oreal. For the past seven years, Volkswagen has provided a luxury limousine service to shuttle stars to and from the red carpet and has backed Berlinale initiatives including its Talent Campus and the Shooting Stars program.

There already were signs of cutbacks at this year's fest, with VW shuttering its annual "People's Night" VIP party.

The Berlinale did not say how it planned to fill that budget gap but said it is confident it will be able to put on a successful festival "together with our current partners and through new alliances."
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