A few weeks ago, in an interview with Italian newspaper La RepubblicaVenice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera spoke about a possible crisis looming for the Italian movie industry if it continues to value quantity over quality.
“The [Italian] movies we selected [this year] are great, in some cases excellent. However, it doesn’t seem to me that there has been an investment in quality overall,” Barbera said. “The quantity of this year’s productions [is] exorbitant compared to our market and the capacity of platforms to incorporate them.”
Producing 250 feature films a year, as Italy did in 2021, is a level of production “that belongs back in the 1960s,” Barbera said.
But if arguably, too many Italian movies are being made, it is clear that far too few people are coming out to watch them. Box office in Italy has not bounced back from its COVID slump and Italian movies in particular have had a hard time finding an audience.
While studios’ titles have been packing them in — Universal’s animated hit Minions: The Rise of Gru grossed some $10 million in Italy after just two weeks in release — most local films have struggled.
Some of the leading figures in the Italian film industry gathered in Venice on Thursday to debate the causes, and possible solutions, for the country’s cinema “crisis.”
“We can’t keep on investing in quantity; we must prioritize quality,” said Angelo Argento of the natural cultural association Cultura Italiae, agreeing with Barbara that this was why great local films are still being produced. “The five Italian movies selected for the festival are proof of this” as there are too many middling movies getting through.
Paolo del Brocco, CEO of Italian movie giant Rai Cinema, argued that theaters and online streaming platforms also “need to work together” to solve the problem. While acknowledging that platforms “have allowed our market to grow,” he said it was time “to think of movie theaters again.”
Nicola Maccanico, CEO of Italian production hub Cinecittà, suggested streaming platforms do their part to protect theaters, “because they know that movie theaters, as a place and an experience, are important to everyone.” The industry needs to put its focus on bringing audiences back to cinemas though, he said. “It’s not enough, as it is sometimes done, to simply invite people to come back.”
“We need clear-cut rules to protect theatres. We must not forget that, in our country, cinema has always been a lab for talents,” added Giampaolo Letta, CEO of Medusa Film, a leading Italian producer/distributor. He called for a simplification of the rules around film subsidies in Italy and “tools to best control the allocated resources.”
For Marta Donzelli, president of the Fondazione Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Italian cinema needs to do more to connect with young people. “We need to reach the youth”, she said, “[teach them how] to read cinematic images, to recognize their value and their meaning. Rushing is a great enemy of quality.”
Cinema is a great resource for both the film and streaming industries, noted Francesco Rutelli, president of the national audiovisual association ANICA. But the focus has to be on what audiences want. “It’s in everyone’s, in our country’s, interest, to bring [the film] industry back to a central position,” Rutelli said. “The question that no one to this day seems to ask is a different one though: what does the public think? What are the movies that could actually interest them?”
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