Italy's outdoor summer movies see threat from ailing film industry

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, May 26, 2024

Italy's outdoor summer movies see threat from ailing film industry
A crowd watches a film screening in Rome in August 2017. A longstanding dispute between film distributors and associations that show outdoor films for free comes to a head as the industry reels from a post-coronavirus downturn. Massimo Berruti/The New York Times.

by Elisabetta Povoledo

ROME (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Since the dawn of cinema, Italy’s torrid summers have made outdoor movie showings under the stars a favorite entertainment choice of the season.

Even the first Venice Film Festival, in August 1932, was held on the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior at the Lido, the island just off the center of Venice.

But this year, several nonprofit cultural and social organizations have struggled to get their summer film festivals going after film distributors refused to rent them many requested titles, from the Harry Potter series to “BlacKkKlansman” to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The reason? These nonprofit organizations screen films for free, even as Italy’s fabled film industry is reeling with many theaters closed because of the coronavirus.

“We use cinema as an instrument of social cohesion, to try and build community and have a nice time together,” said Luca Sansone of the Laboratorio di Quartiere Giambellino Lorenteggio, a group that shows free films in a Milanese low-income neighborhood “where people don’t go to the movies because it costs too much.”

Normally the Milan open-air initiative screens 10 films during the summer. This year, it will show only four after five distributors for Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, 20th Century Fox and RAI Cinema refused to issue rights to films that Sansone’s organization had chosen with input from local residents, he said.

“The distributors told us that if we show them for free, they can’t give us films,” he said.

But those in the business say that the pandemic dealt such a blow that it put the survival of Italy’s film industry at risk, and giving unfettered free access to films would only make matters worse.

“We lost more than 30 million tickets and more than 200 million euros in takings, just in box office receipts,” not to mention the loss of income from food concessions and other revenues, said Mario Lorini, president of ANEC, the association of cinema owners who control the country’s 4,000 movie screens.

Film industry operators note that the free initiatives receive public funding or have sponsors.

The stalemate is the latest chapter in a conflict that started heating up two years ago.

It has also affected other groups that screen free films throughout Italy, including one that travels through small central Italian towns struck by recent earthquakes, and a Roman association that began by showing films in the capital’s trendy Trastevere neighborhood and now runs two other venues.

Distributors denied so many films to “Piccolo America,” the Roman association, that it was forced to scrap retrospectives featuring the films of Sergio Leone, Kathryn Bigelow and Francis Ford Coppola, said Valerio Carocci, the association’s combative leader.

Carocci and other organizers accuse ANEC, the association of cinema owners, and ANICA, the National Association of Cinema and Audiovisual Industries, of conspiring to undermine the free programming.

The accusation triggered an investigation by Italian regulators that became public last month when police raided offices in Rome. The ongoing investigation seeks to determine whether these associations engaged in anti-competitive behavior, breaching a European Union law, or an Italian one.

Both ANICA and ANEC have denied wrongdoing.

The clash over summer film is playing out against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic ramifications. Like countless other sectors, the film industry and its players, such as filmmakers and movie theater owners, have been left gasping ever since Italian cinemas shut their doors March 8, shortly before the national lockdown.

Even though cinema theaters were given the green light to reopen June 15, only 540 cinemas have reopened under new safety and social distancing guidelines limiting such indoor spaces to 200 people. Many cinema owners say they cannot break even under such rules.

The pandemic hit just a year after film industry associations and the culture ministry began promoting year-round movie attendance under the banner “Moviement.”

It worked, Lorini said: Theaters, traditionally closed during the summer, stayed open. And film attendance went up 45% between June and August 2019, boosting the industry’s annual revenues by 14%, despite new streaming services entering the Italian market.

“We came from a good period of revitalization and had a good sense of the future,” Lorini said.

Despite subsidies from the Italian government to combat the pandemic’s effects, cinema owners are still struggling.

And the organizers of the free summer festivals say they are collateral damage, unable to obtain the titles that they had sought. Carocci said distributors had denied the rights to more than 150 films that he had asked for.

A request for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for the Guarimba Film Festival in the Calabrian seaside town of Amantea was one of around 60 titles that the organizers asked for but did not get.

“We wanted to bring movies that weren’t so known here,” said Giulio Vita, chief organizer of the festival. “We’re talking about quality films, not unfair competition.”

“No one in Calabria goes to the cinema when it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside,” he added.

Although many cinemas are now air-conditioned, traditionally Italians have not made them the summer hangout spots that they are in the United States and elsewhere.

The distributors accused of denying access have mostly remained mum about the dispute. Representatives of Universal declined to comment. Representatives of Warner Bros. did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for the state broadcaster, Rai Cinema, and its distribution arm said they had granted rights for all films more than 3 years old.

Others in the industry said that costly investments into making films need to be valued, and compensated.

“It’s an error to propose culture and cinema at zero cost,” said Alessandro Giacobbe, chief executive officer of Academy Two, a Genoa-based distribution company. “Especially this year, when cinemas have been closed for months and the industry in trouble.”

“The message that has to pass to the public is that films should not be seen for free, that unless you pay for culture, it will die,” Giacobbe said.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

July 6, 2020

Frederick Douglass, seen up close

Phillips' white glove Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art realizes $41,135,750

Kunsthaus Zürich opens 'Smoke and mirrors. The Roaring Twenties'

Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong opens an exhibition of new works by Gary Simmons

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac opens an exhibition of new paintings by Jules de Balincourt

Margaret Morton, photographer at home with the homeless, dies at 71

Marianne Boesky Gallery opens dual-artist exhibition of Thornton Dial and Jasmine Little

Tramaine de Senna installs a new commission in Antwerp's main historic park

The unsung heroes of fashion, now mostly unemployed

Nikolai Fadeyechev, elegant Bolshoi dancer, is dead at 87

Beyond Broadway, the show does go on

Intersect Art and Design announces 100 exhibitors from 26 countries for Intersect Aspen

Berkshires museums announce reopening plans

Italy's outdoor summer movies see threat from ailing film industry

Cure3 announce complete list of participating artists for 2020

Exhibition at Marian Cramer Projects presents an eclectic selection of works by 18 international artists

That healing jazz thing on a porch in Brooklyn

Exhibition of new sculptures and photographs by Cyprien Gaillard on view at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles

Top Egyptian actor Ragaa al-Geddawy dies from COVID-19

Playing Beethoven's piano sonatas changed how I hear them

James Sherwood, who revived the Orient Express, dies at 86

TarraWarra Museum of Art will reopen with 'Making Her Mark: Selected Works from the Collection'

Inspiration by artist Bennu. Creativity without formulas

Lost and Stolen Paintings Returned to the Fold

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful