Venice Film Fest Sees Attendance Rise as Italian Films Move to Center Stage

Venice Film Festival Lion - H 2012
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Venice Film Festival Lion - H 2012

Ticket sales fell slightly a year ago, but they are on pace to more than make up for the shortfall, due in part to online sales.

VENICE, Italy – Attendance at the Venice Film Festival is up 22 percent compared to last year as the festival enters the home stretch and prepares to take on a more Italian flavor.

Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, told The Hollywood Reporter that ticket sales as of Wednesday morning were dramatically higher than at the same point in 2012, correcting a slight dip a year ago compared to 2011. He said at least part of the increase was due to an expansion of the system allowing festivalgoers to buy tickets online, though the reasons behind the increase won't be known until full figures are available after the festival concludes.

Baratta also detailed new expansion plans that will result in around 550 new seats being made available over the next two years, reaching a total of 5,500. He said work would begin on revamping and updating the Sala Darsena, the festival's second-largest venue at 1,300 seats, after the festival is over.

Meanwhile, the festival itself started to take on a more Italian feel as many of the international players left town for the Toronto Film Festival. L'intrepido (The Lonely Hero) by Gianni Amelio -- the last Italian director to win Venice's Golden Lion award 15 years ago when Cosi Ridevano (The Way We Laughed) took home the festival's top prize -- will be the main attraction at the Sala Grande venue Wednesday night.

Each of the next two nights will similarly feature at least one Italian selection in the Sala Grande ahead of Saturday's awards ceremony and the screening of Amazonia, a 3D adventure story from Thierry Ragobert that is the festival's closing film.

A pair of English-language films, both in competition, also made their debut on the Lido over the last two days. Tuesday, it was Jonathan Glazer's fantasy story Under the Skin, which stars Scarlett Johansson as a alien life form disguised as a woman.

Also on Wednesday, Errol Morris' The Unknown Known, the much-heralded Donald Rumsfeld documentary, one of two documentaries in the 20-film competition (the other one being Gianfranco Rosi's Sacro GRA, which premieres Thursday), was on the screening schedule.

The 70-year-old festival started Aug. 28.

Twitter: @EricJLyman