Venice’s Warm Embrace Of Netflix Irks Italian Cinema Associations

Venice Film Festival

Italy’s exhibition associations are not happy about Venice’s open arms welcome to Netflix.

Trade bodies ANEC (National Association of Cinema Exhibitors) and ANEM (National Association of Multiplexed Exhibitors) have issued a strongly-worded joint statement, without directly naming the streaming titan, in which they criticize Venice chief Alberto Barbera and the practice of screening movies online day-and-date with their theatrical release or soon after.

Last week, Venice chief Barbera told us Venice would “benefit from all the polemic between Cannes and Netflix.” In reference to France’s strict media chronology laws, he added, “We succeeded in getting a couple of films that could have been in Cannes. It’s a particular situation in France, the streaming window doesn’t make any sense in my point of view.”

Despite Italy not having the same windowing legislation as France, the Italian trade bodies have today hit back, saying they “contest what has been communicated by the Director of the Venice Film Festival and the initiatives that allow the simultaneous release of some films in cinemas and on other media.”

The Lido this year will debut a record six Netflix films: 22 JulyRomaThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs (all in Competition), On My Skin (Horizons), and The Other Side of the Wind and They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Out Of Competition).

While release details have yet to be revealed for most of these films, exhibitor anger seems to arise from Horizons opener On My Skin, the Italian police-brutality drama which is due to play in several Italian cinemas via local distributor Lucky Red on September 12, the same day it is due to go out globally on Netflix and only a short time after its festival debut.

The Italian lobbying groups today condemned day-and-date streaming which they said only helps the “short-term interests of one party, to the detriment of others.”

In their view, Venice is condoning a weakening of the value chain in a local market which is suffering from structural challenges such as piracy, “This is a very sensitive issue that should be dealt with in agreement with all the operators of the film supply chain, especially in a period of serious crisis for exhibition due to structural problems of the market.”

They went on to say they will “oppose this proposal [day-and-date releasing of big movies] by any means necessary if the issue of shortening windows is disregarded without the approval of Italian Cinema.”

I understand that at least one other Italian cinema trade body is lining up a similarly-toned statement for this week. The festival declined to comment.

A similar debate dominated the lead up to Cannes this year and Venice will be hoping the same isn’t about to happen to them. It’s such a mutifaceted issue, which touches on so many of the industry’s key challenges (and opportunities) today: shifting distribution models, changing consumption habits, power-struggles between traditional and new players, the health of the indie business, the evolving role of film festivals etc.

One thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of this one.

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