Global releasing is only now being adopted by Hollywood studios, but it is already having an impact on the timing and programming of festivals. Felice Laudadio this week announced that he will move next year's Taormina festival by a couple of weeks - from mid July to the last week of June - in order to better fit in with the summer releasing schedule of blockbuster movies.
Taormina's new dates are set as June 29-July 7, 2001. "The move is essential to us if we are going to be able to have Hollywood's summer movies next year," Laudadio told Screen International.
Although he does not envisage a change in dates for his festival, Venice chief selector Alberto Barbera says that global releasing is already having an impact on his line-up. "It puts Venice in a very difficult position. We will have to rethink the role of the Sogni E Visioni section that used to be known as midnight screenings. Several Hollywood films I might have included in this section such as The Perfect Storm, X-Men or The Hollow Man have already been widely released. I had little choice but to invite nearly every major film that was offered to me."
Global releasing is being hastened by the impact of DVD on the subsidiary markets for film and the threat of piracy that DVD enables; the internet's effect of accelerating marketing campaigns; and, in the near future, the globalisation permitted by digital exhibition technology.
Programmers' choices are made harder still by what Barbera describes as the indispensability of stars. "Festivals are becoming bigger media events. Stars are necessary for promoting more than just individual films. Stardom is an essential component of the industry."
Taormina has a particular interest in staying in synch with the Hollywood calendar as, with its Made In English sub-title, the festival under Laudadio has been firmly refocused on English-language fare.
But it is still a mark of the rapid growth of the simultaneous releasing phenomenon that an Italian event has felt the need to move. For many years Italian cinemas have closed in summer, kicking off the new season in September with the films that have played through the US summer. This year, however, the efforts by the major companies and the availability of new multiplex screens has meant a string of summer releases and the arrival of a 12-month season in Italy.
The success of Mission:Impossible 2, Gladiator and High Fidelity has massively lifted summer takings at the Italian box office. According to data from Cinetel and the Giornale Dello Spettacolo some 60% of screens were in operation this summer and the national gross between 15 June and 15 August more than doubled from L21bn to L43bn.