All cinemas in Italy will be closed on Friday October 14as part of a strike by the national film industry to protest against massivenew cuts to government funding.

In its 2006budget proposal, the Silvio Berlusconi government has set out a paltry Euros 50mto support film - compared to Euros 84m last year.

The cuts to thefilm industry are part of a wider cut in funding to Italy's entertainment fund(FUS), which comprises opera, dance and theatre, as well as film. Under thegovernment proposal, which must still be approved by the Parliament, the FUSwill receive less than Euros 300m every year - compared to its current Euros464m.

The October 14thstrike, called for by entertainment body Agis and national film body Anica,will affect the country's cinemas, theatres and opera houses. Workers acrossthe industry - including actors - will also go on strike and the entertainmentsector is planning a big demonstration in Rome next Friday afternoon.

The cuts to filmfunding are the latest in a series of slashes in recent years that have plungedlarge parts of the industry - already troubled by an economic recession - intoeven greater crisis.

In a fieryofficial note, Anica and producers association API have pointed out that theFrench government invests around ten times as much as Italy in its filmindustry.

'Any cutsto funding for the arts is unacceptable as it impoverishes the entirecountry,' they said.

Adding to itswoes, the arts sector is also currently facing a reduction in revenue from thenational lottery.

Together withcuts to the state entertainment budget, Alberto Francesconi, head of Agis, saidthe entire sector will see its budget slashed by a massive 40%.

'Productionlevels as well as the space on the market for Italian product will be greatlyreduced. It will only give an advantage to non-Italian product,' Anica andAgis added.

Paolo Protti,the new head of Italy's exhibitors association Anec, says the money thegovernment could set out for the arts is marginal when compared to its overallbudget.

'What are160 million Euros in a budget of 20 billion Euros' It's a drop in the ocean forthe government. But it is a drop of lethal venom for Italy's culturalheritage,' he said.