Cinemas and theatres are to go dark on Monday as Italy’s entertainment industry agitates against proposed budget cuts to their sector with a one-day national strike.
Film industry workers are agitated by threats at further reductions to Italy’s arts fund, known as FUS, or fondo unico spettacolo, is a single fund divided between the arts. The Italian government has plans to slash financing for the fund from 450m Euros in 2008 to 262m Euros or 36.6% in 2011, according Italian newspaper La Stampa, citing government figures.
Cinema organizations such as Anica, the entertainment trade body has cited expected cuts to be slightly less, at 288m, yet still dismal and will bring FUS, if approved, to the lowest level in 20 years.
It is expected that 250,000 will participate in the actions and is a follow up of last months strike waged by film industry workers that blocked the opening day at the Rome Film Festival.
The industry fears, among other cuts, that tax credits aimed at boosting cinema production, will not be renewed. The credits have facilitated big Hollywood productions to film in Italy. According to data, four recent productions including GK Films’ The Tourist, The Weinstein Company’s Nine, Summit Entertainment’s Letters To Juliet and Focus Features’ The American – have saved a combined total of $13.4m (E10m) on their Italian shoots. The tax credit also has a formula for local producers, putting homegrown films at risk, as well.
Agis, entertainment trade organisation, and Anica, Italy’s motion pictures organisation and Anec, the exhibitors organisation, are among those strongly joined with the strike, fueled largely by the 100 Autori association of auters.
Marco Chimenz, partner with Italian production company Cattleya and US major Universal Pictures Italia president Richard Borg expressed their solidarity with the protestors at a Friday press conference for their upcoming film La Donna Della Mia Vita.
Universal, like other US majors here has increased business in Italy to include the distribution as well as the production of local films now as part of their slate.
The strike and potential budget cuts to the sector comes at a time when Italy sees a massive local box office hit. The film Welcome to the South, a remake of a French hit Welcome to the Sticks is breaking records for admissions and currently registers at the second top grossing Italian film of all time earning Euros 28.5 million to date. The film trails only after Roberto Begnini’s Oscar winning Life Is Beautiful, which grossed 31.2 million Euros.
Italy’s culture minister Sandro Bondi has been under fire for not sufficiently lobbying in favour of culture following the recent crumbling of Pompeii’s 2000-year-old House of the Gladiators. Italy’s political opposition has called for Bondi to resign and have forced a confidence vote on the minister’s mandate slated later this month. Earlier in the year, Bondi criticized Sabina Guzzanti’s anti-Berlusconi documentary Draquila, in a move that was roundly looked down upon by the international film community.