VENICE -- The absence of hefty U.S. fare is beginning to be felt as the Venice Festival enters its second stretch.
Many of this year's really big guns -- the Weinstein Co.'s Oscar hopeful "The Imitation Game," Denzel Washington starrer "The Equalizer," David Fincher's "Gone Girl" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" -- are now firing off at Telluride, Toronto and even, in Anderson and Fincher's case, the New York Film Festival.
Given the high costs of opening a film on the Lido, especially for star-studded U.S. movies, Venice's 71st edition raises the question of whether the balance of fest power is shifting to North America.
In the past two decades, Venice has held world premieres for several U.S. works, including Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," Oscar-winners "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Hurt Locker" and George Clooney's "Michael Clayton," but this year's only premiere was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman," which opened the 71st edition.
But one edition may be simply too short a time to tell.
So far it has been art films -- foreign-language, genre and crossovers -- that have largely dominated buyers' interest at Venice.
A couple of early films charmed most critics: "Birdman" and Benoit Jacquot's "Three Hearts."
Cohen Media Group bought the Elle Driver-sold "Three Hearts," starring Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Among other early screeners that may spark biz from Venice play are Ramin Bahrani's HPI-sold "99 Homes," Joshua Oppenheimer's rave-reviewed documentary "The Look of Silence" and Xavier Beauvois' "The Price of Fame," from Wild Bunch.
"Silence," hailed at Venice as a potential Oscar contender, was picked up for the U.S. by Drafthouse Films/Participant Media while I Wonder took the rights for Italy.
"We have many bidding wars and in other countries are finalizing negotiations, so I really think we'll be locking in Toronto," said Cinephil's Philippa Kowarsky about the action around the feature doc.
Bowing Sunday and pre-sold to 10 territories, Laurent Cantet's "Return to Ithaca," being sold by Funny Balloons, also sparked buyer interest, as did David Delfhoffen's Viggo Mortensen-starrer "Far From Men," being sold by Pathe.
Of announced deals, Finecut's Young Joo Suh confirmed the Italian sales before Venice of Kim Ki-duk's "One on One" and Hong Sangsoo's "Hill of Freedom," both bought by Andrea Cirla's Fil Rouge Media.
A new European Gap-Financing Co-Production Market fortified the boutique Venice Film Market, where trading, often in preparation for Toronto, was steady.
In trading at the Venice Film Market, where attendance was in line with 2013 at about 1,450 participants, competition player "Tales," from Iran's Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, was eliciting strong interest in Benelux and the former Yugolslavia, said Noori Pictures' Katayoon Shabadi.
Germany and Turkey are in discussions on Toronto player "The Grump," said Chris Howard at Finland's the Yellow Affair.
U.S. distributor and Canadian producer Silver Sword Intl. closed seven more markets on documentary feature "Spitfire Liberator: The Alex Herbst Story."
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