The Rome Film Festival opened in the Italian capital on Friday with a line-up dedicated mainly to emerging talents, swapping red carpet stars for films by Tajik, Catalan and Mexican directors.
Ahead of a glitzy opening ceremony, artistic director Marco Muller, who previously headed up the Venice Film Festival, denied claims the lack of blockbusters had hurt ticket sales, which are down 15 percent on last year.
"We've just selected films which are better than others," he said.
"There are Hollywood films, American films which are very accessible," he said, adding that a huge tent that can seat 1,400 spectators had been erected and "we wouldn't have done that if we didn't think it could be filled."
Actors Sylvester Stallone, Jude Law, Bill Murray and Charlotte Rampling will be flying in to the Eternal City for the festival, which runs until November 17.
Among the directors on the roll-call is Roman Coppola, the son of US filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, with his comedy "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" starring Bill Murray, Charlie Sheen and Anne Bellamy.
And Muller has hinted that cult director Quentin Tarantino, who has recently completed "Django Unchained", may turn up as "a big surprise".
Props used in movies filmed in Rome's historic Cinecitta studios will dot the red carpet, including a Roman statue from Ridley Scott's "The Gladiator" (1999) and the laughing buddha from Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" (2002).
On Saturday, over 30 Roman centurions from Massimo Andrei's film "Benur", which is showing at the festival, will storm the auditorium grounds in full armour and horse-drawn carriages.