Among the new initiatives to bow in Venice this year is a market that’s been met with curiosity mixed with skepticism and a wait-and-see stance in Hollywood and Europe.

US companies including FilmNation, LD Entertainment and The Weinstein Co. are on the official list of attendees, but with Venice so close to Toronto, folks are dubious about big ticket business. “The only reason to go to Venice is if you have a film there,” says one veteran Hollywood exec. Momentum UK’s Robert Walak, who does not attend Venice, echoes that, “With the amount of organizing that you have to do for Toronto to make sure that things are covered,” going to Toronto and Venice is a bit much. Still, the company has its ear to the Lido. Sony Pictures Classics, which does have films here, is not sending executives since it doesn’t have Italy on its three titles in selection, but will cover from afar.

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The proximity to Toronto which starts on September 6 – and the notorious cost of Venice – mean Hollywood tends to sit this one out biz-wise. But veteran French exec Pascal Diot, who is heading up the new business initiative, tells me, “There was a lot of business here about 15 years ago, but Toronto wasn’t as big then… We found it abnormal that a festival as prestigious as Venice didn’t have a market.” He allows the fest “also found it ridiculous to cross with Toronto,” so the market will run only from Aug 30-Sept 3, allowing execs enough time to hightail it to Canada. One European sales exec says he thinks Venice’s real market “is still Toronto” where deals are sealed after an initial taste. “And it’s fine like that,” the exec says. “I don’t think Venice wanted to create an extra market, it wanted to improve working conditions for buyers.” The improved conditions include a fully dedicated space at the Excelsior Hotel, a digital video library, industry business center, industry club and an exclusive meeting area for producers, buyers and sellers.

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It is all about egos! Why would we need a market in Venice when Toronto hardly justifies...

For its debut year, the Venice Film Market invited (read: is paying for) 100 distributors. Insiders suggest that’s a big incentive. But Diot counters that 210 buyers ultimately signed up – and he’s not paying the overflow. Some Europeans like Eric Lagesse of France’s Pyramide, which buys and sells, welcome the Venice market. “Clearly it’s more important for European buyers,” opines Lagesse who will be looking to acquire on the Lido this year. Regarding sales, he contends, “A U.S. sale is great, but given the market for auteur films in the U.S., I can still sell more expensively on Germany, Italy and Spain than the U.S. If I can get through European sales in Venice so I can concentrate on deals in Latin America, Canada and the U.S. in Toronto, that suits me just fine.”

Adeline Fontan Tessaur of edgy French international sales and production company Elle Driver tells me about Venice, “If I didn’t have a film, I wouldn’t go. We’ll see if there’s more buyers or not and if they’re more aggressive. We’re in a waiting pattern.”

One school of thought on the move to place a market in Venice is that it has to do with infighting between it and the Rome Film Festival. Former Venice director Marco Muller, who was ousted last year, is now heading up Rome. That fest was perceived as an upstart 7 years ago, but its market, The Business Street, has begun to solidify as a stop on the international calendar. Diot insists the choice to start a market here “has nothing to do with Rome.”