The Italian government has approved an emergency decree topour an extra Euros 80m into the local cinema industry, which will be largelydestined for production and will free at least 80 state-funded films fromlimbo.

Around 80 films are believed to have been greenlit in 2003for state funding for production, but have still not received the money. BNL,the Italian bank that manages the film industry's funds, recently explainedthat despite the government's willingness to fund films, its coffers are almostempty, having dwindled to a paltry Euros 40m.

[In 1994, BNL's film fund amounted to around Euros 500m,while in 2001 it stood at Euros 300m.]

Such is the backlog in payments that some of thestate-funded films that are still awaiting funding, such as Silvio Soldini's AgathaAnd The Storm, have already been released.

Among the reasons the local industry cites for the emergencydecree is the fact that a large number of films funded by the state bombed atthe box office so that many producers who received state funds never paid backthe state's loans.

In addition, industry members argue that TV broadcasters arenot all complying with laws requiring them to invest a certain amount into thelocal film industry each year.

While the local industry was naturally pleased that thegovernment approved the emergency decree on Friday, many are still wary of theoverall financial situation of Italian film. Some said it is also unclearwhether the emergency sum will be considered a loan that will have to bereturned to the government.

"The decree has come at an opportune time in anemergency situation, although it will not definitively resolve ourproblems," said Alberto Francesconi, president of Italian entertainmentbody AGIS.

Gianni Massaro, head of national film association, ANICA,concurred: "Culture minister Giuliano Urbani has fought to support theinterests of the film industry, but we are alarmed about the future. We don'tunderstand whether the money will be enough and the overall situation is stillup in the air."

Meanwhile, the government said that an unspecifiedpercentage of the emergency state funds will also be used to fight piracy inItaly, which has the highest levels of piracy in the Western world and isestimated to cost the local film industry around Euros 4.2bn each year.