THE 66TH ANNUAL VENICE FILM FESTIVAL KICKS OFF TODAY

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FROM VARIETY

Change is clearly coming to the VENICE FILM FESTIVAL, when the 66th edition kicks off Wednesday amidst a construction zone for its new PALAZZO DEL CINEMA HQ.

The building work isn’t likely to put off celebs expected to attend – NICOLAS CAGE, EVA MENDES and MICHAEL MOORE are among those on their way to the LIDO for a daring and diverse selection that comprises more countries, more newcomers, more Americans and more genre pics on display than at any other nonspecialized event.

Following journalistic gripes about the scarcity of star power last year, fest topper MARCO MUELLER has made sure that no one will be complaining this time.

After kicking off with Giuseppe Tornatore’s big budget Sicilian epic BAARIA, which will get the paparazzi started with a bevy of ITALIAN stars, NICOLAS CAGE and EVA MENDES are dropping by for Warner Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT makeover BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, which unspools Friday and TILDA SWINTON is bound for the fest along with ITALIAN director Luca Guadagnino’s I AM LOVE in HORIZONS on Saturday.

MICHAEL MOORE brings his latest doc CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY on Sunday, which is also the fest’s Disney/Pixar 3D day, with John Lasseter and his team to be Lionized with a collective career nod.

“I was not expecting Michael Moore to choose Venice with one of his most ambitious, complex, symphonic films,” MARCO MUELLER commented.

He added that MICHAEL MOORE and PARAMOUNT VANTAGE’S decision to launch the film on the LIDO proved that for high profile American films that aren’t blockbusters, “Venice has really become the perfect platform to underline that a film is very seductive.”

Meanwhile, the fenced off building site for the PALAZZA DEL CINEMA adjacent to the CASINO, due for completion by 2012, has prompted Mr. Mueller and BIENNALE president PAOLO BARATTA to make additions and modifications to the space available this year.

The CASINO’S door by the LIDO lagoon dock has been restored to its former mid 20th century splendor and is now the only entrance to the festival’s main hub.

A temporary 450 seat venue, the SALA PERLA 2, has been built in front of the CASINO, mainly for use by the independently run VENICE DAYS & CRITICS’ WEEK sections.

Working to become more user friendly, the fest has arranged for local eateries to stay open late and to keep price hikes to a minimum. Moves are also under way to reduce hotel costs – a relentless LIDO difficulty.

“Finally, we can prove that the new palazzo is not just an idea and that the change is much more than just a new venue. But the change of a whole system,” Mr. Mueller stated.

“Of course, new screens will be built. But more than anything, what counts is the possibility of making the experience a more pleasurable one.”

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