Biz spikes at RomaCinemaFest


ROME -- The RomaCinemaFest's Business Street market event closed with a last-minute flurry of activity Sunday, a day before the festival released final figures that showed attendance almost 50% higher than during the inaugural edition last year.

According to Business Street director Sylvain Auzou, the four-day twist on a traditional market attracted 230 buyers this year, compared with 160 a year ago. Interest and the level of activity rose in step with the increase in participation.

"I think we can say that this year was a success," Auzou said in an interview. "I have tried to make the Business Street something small and accessible. I think my problem next year may be dealing with the extra interest this year's event is creating."

The Business Street differs from a traditional market in that it does not include stands or scheduled events, but rather a low-key and intimate place for buyers and sellers to discuss potential deals. The event is housed in a series of hotels along Rome's famous Via Veneto.

In its two years of existence, the event has made strides in finding a niche in its spot on the calendar between Toronto in September and the upcoming American Film Market in Los Angeles, which starts at the end of the month.

The early reviews from participants in Rome were overwhelmingly positive.

"They spent a lot of money here and it shows," one Italy-based buyer said. "Not in a pretentious way, but in that whatever you need and whoever you want to talk to, they are here. I look at this event as a great pre-AFM co-production hangout."

Brigitte Suarez, sales manager for Germany's the Match Factory, which this year will skip AFM in lieu of the Rome event, agreed.

"Other markets have rigid schedules that can be both positive and negative," Suarez said. "Here, it's much more relaxed. If you want to discuss something with someone, just walk up to them and start talking."

It is difficult to evaluate the success of an event like the Business Street. Some deals closed in Rome were hatched in Locarno, Venice or Toronto, and many first brought up in Rome might not be closed until AFM or afterward. But participants talked about dozens of deals in some stage of development, and the rooftop terrace of the Bristol Hotel at the mouth of Via Veneto was buzzing with activity as the event wound down, despite threatening skies and cool weather.

"Interest was good last year, but a good sign this year is that everyone who came in 2006 came back in 2007 and there are many new faces as well," Auzou said.

Jean-Thomas Bernardini from Brazil's Imovision said the Business Street is one of the few market events he attends.

"I get invited to markets all over the world, but Brazil is so far away and I am uninterested in living out of a suitcase, and so I turn most invitations down," Bernardini said. "But this is one of the events I look forward to because it's in a great place and I can get a lot done."