Crunch won't crimp Rome fest's market

Only a slight drop in companies expected to attend

ROME -- The number of buyers at the Rome International Film Festival's market should approach last year's levels despite the growing economic crisis gripping the U.S. and Europe, the sidebar's manager said Thursday.

About 125 companies -- including Wild Bunch, Fortissimo, and Maximum -- have confirmed they will be on hand for Rome's International Film Market, known previously as the Business Street. That's down from 170 companies at the 2007 edition of the event, but Sylvain Auzou said he expects late additions to increase the number to near the same level.

"If we end up with the same number of buyers as last year ... I'll be happy," he said.

The total number of participants in the five-day event held on Rome's famous Via Veneto should remain about 600 people, he said.

Auzou said that he agrees with recent reports that Rome's market will become an increasingly important part of the festival. The festival's president, Gian Luigi Rondi, reiterated that Thursday when he told Italy's Foreign Press Association that the market was "one of the festival's two lungs," along with its film lineup.

"Growth of the market is good, it is fine," Auzou said. "But it has to come at its own pace. You can't force growth to happen as some other festivals have tried to do, unsuccessfully."

But he said the market's format -- more a low-pressure and informal meeting place than a facility packed with booths -- will remain unchanged.

The Rome festival is set for Oct. 22-31, with the first five days overlapping with the market.