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Rome Holds First Film Festival; City Gets Booked

October 30, 2006 By: Mike Jaccarino Travel Agent

Agents should plan ahead for next year

As Travel Agent goes to press, Italian officials are concluding the first Rome Film Festival, October 13 to 21, to apparently great fanfare in both the city and the international media. The exterior of Parco della Musica, the main site of the Rome Film Festival

"It's going very well," says Publicist Vanessa
Jerome on October 17. "The objective was to make it a festival that the
public is really involved in, and they certainly are...There's a good ambiance.
They're there every night for the red carpet...It's a program that seems to
satisfy the public and the true movie goers as well."

Plenty of A-listers turned out: Nicole Kidman, Sean Connery,
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Gere, Viggo Mortensen, and Italian
bombshell Monica Bellucci. (In a snub, Sophia Loren was not invited for the
opening ceremony, which provided much publicity. She reportedly stayed home and
ate chocolate with Sister Maria Scicolone.)

One source estimates the crowds showing up for the red
carpet entrances each night at the Auditorium Parco della Musica at 600 to
1,200. No word yet on the official number of people who purchased tickets or
who participated.

Most luxury hotels in Rome
reported limited if any availability. On this point alone, it seems that agents
need to be aware of the 2007 dates (which have yet to be announced).

"We are booked for the film festival," says a clerk
at the Hotel Hassler, echoing confreres at the St. Regis (where Kidman
reportedly stayed) and The Ritz. "Rome
is really crowed," added a spokeswoman for the Hotel Bernini Bristol,
which also sold out.

As in Cannes, Milan and Los Angeles, Rome's festival had a
business market the first few days, centered on Via Veneto. Travel Agent
got the following from our on-site writer in Rome, Sharri Whiting: "The (Westin)
Excelsior is the center of this and is using its ballrooms as screening rooms.
The largest suite in the hotel, Villa La Cupola, has its own private screening
room. H Club Doney, the recently remodeled restaurant and bar, is naturally
just packed. They're having a special menu also." Whiting reports
producers fiercely selling their movies at the Excelsior.

Whiting adds: "The Via Veneto Association, which
includes most of the Starwood Hotels in town, as well as Splendid Royal,
Bristol Bernini and others, is hosting special events...with movie sets, famous
movie's pictures, et cetera."

If you intend to sell next year's event, one festival
organizer says he expects the 2006 venues to be used again next year. Movies
were screened in 20 sites around the city.

Travel Agent contacted two of Travel & Leisure's
perennial A-listers, Italy
experts Margot Cushing of Linden Travel Bureau in New York
and Andrea Sertoli of Select Italy, Wilmette, IL,
who had differing views of its future and what it means for agents.

Cushing was far more enthusiastic, saying of whether the
event represented a selling point for agents. "Oh absolutely...the
wonderful thing about Italy
for me is, it's not a place you go once and never go back. You can keep finding
other ways of enjoying your stay, and this is a perfect example."

Sertoli, however, said Select Italy tried selling packages
to other Italian film festivals in 2004 but they generated only a tepid
response from clients.

"It didn't really work out. Probably because it was the
first attempt; probably should have pushed a bit more on the market. It's not
necessarily that easy to combine (a film festival) with traditional tour
elements. It may not be strong enough to motivate an American traveler to go to
if he or she didn't want to go already for another reason.

"I would be reluctant to say yes based on the experience
we had in 2004, but indirectly, it's something that you can talk about to
increase the interest in a certain place like Rome." Of whether the Rome Film Festival
has the chops to become another Cannes,
Sertoli says, "It's a long shot, but you can say that certainly some of
the ingredients may well be there."

For information on the festival, visit

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