RomaCinemaFest right on the money

Detractors exaggerated Rome's expenditure

CANNES -- Turns out that upstart film festival in Rome hasn't been squandering its budget after all. And Nicole Kidman and Robert De Niro apparently didn't get quite the megabucks to show up that detractors claimed.

Rome's newly minted mayor, Gianni Alemanno, in particular has been at odds with the three-year-old RomaCinemaFest, claiming that the event -- hatched, not surprisingly, by a former political regime -- was too expensive for the Eternal City to fund, and in any case too fixated on luring costly Hollywood stars.

Alemanno allies have been quoted in the local Italian press as saying the fest cost as much as 32 million euros ($50 million) to put on last year.

But it now appears that the accusations are overblown: The Hollywood Reporter has obtained documents that show the fest's budget for the 2007 was actually 17.6 million euros ($27 million). In the inaugural edition of the fest two and a half years ago, the budget was 12.6 million euros ($19.5 million).

And the city's contribution? Last year it was 1.5 million euros ($2.3 million), up from 1 million euros ($1.55 million) the previous year. (To that must be added significant in-kind contributions, including a regular shuttle bus service and security services.)

Whatever the revelations about the costs, Alemanno would seem to be less a lover of Hollywood films, and American stars, than his predecessor Walter Veltroni: He has vowed to reduce the size of the fest and to replace its head, Goffredo Bettini, with film director Pasquale Squitieri.

Alemanno and Bettini met Monday, and their encounter was officially described as "positive and in a spirit of collaboration." The two sides agreed to further meetings.

So what will change for festgoers?

Some of the compromises discussed by Alemanno and Bettini apparently included boosting the emphasis on Italian films, though not at the expense for international fare that has highlighted the first two editions of the festival.

A link-up with the David di Donatellos, the most important national film awards, is likely, though it's not clear that the two events would take place at the same time. The Donatellos are traditionally in the spring; Rome unspools in October.

Bettini will apparently remain at the helm for the third edition (Oct. 22-31), though Squitieri may play a significant role in the upcoming edition.