Turin Film Fest Eyes New Ticket-Sales Record Behind Eclectic Lineup

"Last Vegas" will open the 31st Turin Film Festival

The 31st edition starts Friday with a screening of "Last Vegas," but star Robert De Niro won't be there, with first-year artistic director Paolo Virzi saying he's too expensive to book.

A year ago, the Turin Film Festival was the only one of Italy’s largest international film events to produce a rise in ticket sales compared to the previous edition. Now the festival, under first-year artistic director Paolo Virzi, wants to do it again.

Venice, Rome, and Taormina all saw ticket sales at their festivals slip in 2012 -- but Turin’s ticket sales increased, with 80,000 sold over nine days. This time, organizers say they hope to sell 100,000.

The festival gets underway Friday, with Jon Turteltaub’s star-studded Last Vegas, and runs through Nov. 30, when it will close with Eugenio Mira’s thriller Grand Piano.

Organizers put together a lineup to attract film fans, with an intriguing mix of new Italian movies like The Mafia Only Kills in the Summer (La Mafia uccide solo d’estate) from Pif and documentary The Train Goes to Moscow (Il treno va a Mosca), from Federico Ferrone and Michele Manzolini; refurbished classics like Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2; and Italian premieres of films that have already debuted elsewhere, including Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

One thing Virzi is not counting on to draw attention to the 31-year-old event is star power. A few big names are expected at the festival, including director Turteltaub and indie film darling Greta Gerwig, star of Frances Ha. But Virzi blasted the Rome Film Festival earlier this week for paying big money for stars to appear at the event. For its part, Rome has repeatedly denied paying for stars to come to its event.

Asked by La Repubblica this week why he didn’t invite popular Last Vegas co-star Robert de Niro to come to the festival, Virzi said, “If someone can pull together $500,000 for a private airplane for De Niro, his staff and security, let me know and I’ll call them immediately." Turin’s entire budget is just €2.5 million ($3.3 million), Virzi noted.

Twitter: @EricJLyman