Italy’s movie business continues to get slammed harder and harder as part of the country’s overall economic crisis. Lately, a kerfuffle over production tax credits threatens to further stymie growth while the country’s government may be on the brink of collapse given media mogul/former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s legal troubles. And, the lack of a strong VOD offer continues to bedevil an industry plagued by piracy. There have been some bright spots this year including Giuseppe Tornatore’s Warner Bros.-produced The Best Offer which was well-received by audiences and awards bodies and managed to travel some. Meanwhile, local comedy Il Principe Abusivo is currently the No. 2 film at the box office for the year with over $18M in receipts, but that’s a drop from high-performing comedies of recent years. Italian industry execs are not entirely glum, and some are taking the optimistic view that crisis can lead to renewal, but caution still dominates.
Although Rai acquired Sean Penn starrer The Gunman from Studiocanal in Cannes this year – the first straight buy its made in a year – watchers say this doesn’t mean a complete shift. With traditional film partners pulling back on investing, a local distributor says, “It’s almost impossible to finance a movie today. Even if you’re lucky enough to get TV, the amount of money is a lot less than it used to be. Most Italian movies don’t travel” so they “have to make money back inside the territory.” If a movie “ends up getting recognition abroad, that’s icing. It can’t be part of your plan.”
Exacerbating the financing issue is the current production tax credit crisis. Plans are not entirely set in stone, but the government is expected to push forward with a massive cut to the annual 90M euro ($117.6M) fund that gets doled out on a first-come-first-served basis. The credits are expected to be extended for the next three years according to local sources, but the war chest will drop severely to 45M euros or less per year. Italian unions have understandably been up in arms, but an exec tells me, “Given the overall circumstances – everybody has tax cuts – I would say it’s very coherent with what’s happening in the country.” New measures should be entered into the law later this year.
What the cuts mean in reality is that “a lot of movies aren’t going to get made.” In turn, insiders believe that will impact the emergence of new talent. “Up-and-comers are having a very difficult time because fewer films are being produced, and the ones that are being produced seem to be from surefire auteurs. A lot of would-be new talent isn’t getting a shot,” I’m told. (more…)