Magazine article Variety

Italo Pics Must Make a BREAK

Magazine article Variety

Italo Pics Must Make a BREAK

Article excerpt

The Italian film business, coming off an Oscar win this year for Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," should be on a roll. But the Italo industry's story is more complex, as shrinking budgets and a stagnant box office hamper a filmmaking community that's stubbornly slow to shed its insular ways. Yet fresh faces are emerging, thanks to co-productions across Europe, helping the sector to stumble ahead.

Recently, the Italian Culture Ministry revealed alarming figures that show a 27% drop in Italian film investments in 2013 to euro358 million ($495 million), compared with 2012, while the country's cinematic output remained substantially stable, at 167 pics. The average budget of an Italian movie these days is a measly $2.3 million.

"The numbers show that the budgets of quality midrange movies are getting slimmer, and this is terrible," comments producer Riccardo Tozzi, who heads Italy's national motion picture association, Anica.

Tozzi predicts shrinking budgets would cause the 30% share of the Italian box office that local films presently command to shrink. Total Italo admissions have long been under the 100 million mark, far below the potential of a country with a population of 61 million. By contrast, the U.K., with 63 million people, notched 165 million admissions in 2013.

Co-productions among European countries are a time-honored way to enable bigger budgets as well as mitigate risk, but there are limits. "Great Beauty" producer Nicola Giuliano laments that Italy is on the margins of the panEuropean co-production circuit, because while Italian movies can tap into coin in nearby nations, the relationship is a oneway street.

"France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland have a system that requires, for example, Canal Plus to prebuy a certain amount of European product, including Italian movies," he says. "But Italian TV doesn't buy from them."

The few Italo pics that gain traction internationally from festivals and sales agents are the ones that feature edgy storylines and are set up as European co-productions, says producer Carlo Cresto-Dina of Tempesta Film.

Cresto-Dina is the producer of "Le Meraviglie," from second-time director Alice Rohrwacher, who is competing in Cannes with a new-age-themed pic that stars her sister, Alba Rohrwacher ("I Am Love"), and Monica Bellucci. …

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