The Tribeca film festival gets longer and flashier -- We take a closer look at the success of Robert De Niro's cinematic baby

By Michelle Kung
Updated May 09, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Is the Tribeca Film Festival all growed up? That’s what Robert De Niro’s cinematic baby with cofounder Jane Rosenthal tried to prove in its fourth outing, April 19-May 1. Longer and flashier, the audience-friendly fest outglammed its predecessors (in: Nicole Kidman; five minutes ago: the Olsens) and boosted ticket sales by 49 percent, but did not yield a major acquisition.

Jump-started by a swank and starry reception for The Interpreter at MoMA, the festival screened more than 250 feature films from 45 countries, and chose as its best narrative feature Li Shaohong’s evocative Stolen Life, the second consecutive Chinese film to nab the $25,000 prize (Liu Fen Dou’s The Green Hat was tops last year). Tribeca’s slice of downtown Manhattan crammed more than 50 parties into a range of hot spots both traditional (Lotus, Nobu) and not so much (the New York Mercantile Exchange, the SoHo Apple store). Still, Tribeca was mellow as a marketplace. The two domestic pickups so far — for the Showtime-produced documentary After Innocence and the Dutch drama Simon — fell from eight last year. Among the buzzed-about films still in the lurch: The Great New Wonderful, a 9/11 dramedy starring Maggie Gyllenhaal (who caused a flap by ripping American foreign policy at the premiere),and Transamerica, a gender bender with Felicity Huffman. ”It’s still not a market yet,” says IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring. ”But I think in three to five years’ time, it could become very important.”