Arts funding in Italy for 2009 has been drastically reduced, with cinema hit by a reduction of $26.7m (Euros 20.9m), sparking a move by the arts community to change Italy's laws governing funding for cinema and the arts.

The budget for Italy's single arts fund, the FUS, has been reduced to $509m (Euros 398m) from a projected $726m according to AGIS, the entertainment trade organization that liaises with the government.

Specific funding in 2009 for cinema will now total $89.5m (Euros 69.9m), a 23% reduction from the $116m (Euros 90.9m) allotted in 2008.

However as a percentage of the overall FUS budget, cinema funding remains on a par with last year's figures. In 2008 the sector received 19 percent of the over all FUS budget, in 2009 it will receive 18.5 percent.

The cuts have moved AGIS, presided over by Alberto Francesconi, to send an open letter to Prime Minister Berlusconi.

The letter asks whether the arts can continue to operate with such dramatic cuts from one year to the next and suggests that it is time for a reform in the laws governing cinema and the arts.

Italy last reforms are now 40 years old, and the arts community is now lobbying for new reforms

In his letter, Francesconi warns that cuts at the levels proposed will mean that the arts community will be forced to cut contracted workers in the second half of the year.