Italy’s Struggling Film and TV Industry Welcomes $775 Million Relief Fund

As Italy’s government wobbles, the country’s struggling film and TV industry is staying afloat thanks to beefed-up funding that in 2021 will provide a 640 million ($775 million) safety net for local exhibitors, distributors and producers.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte survived a crucial Senate confidence vote on Tuesday evening by a razor thin margin of just 16 votes (the vote went 156-140 in his favor), averting a crisis sparked by differences over how to spend more than 200 billion ($242 billion) earmarked by the European Union for a COVID-19 recovery fund to help revive its pandemic-plagued economy.

The president of Italy’s Motion Picture Association (ANICA) Francesco Rutelli on Wednesday told Variety that the government now remains on track with its recovery plan for the film and audiovisual production industry, drafted by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, which Rutelli called “a major achievement.” Funding for the industry is up 60% compared with last year and is being spread out across its various sectors.

Key aspects of Italy’s safety net for the film and TV production sector include a refinancing of the 40% tax rebate for production that has been keeping sets open by offsetting extra coronavirus costs and risks; 110 million ($133 million) to subsidize shuttered movie theaters, which are also getting substantial tax breaks; and €25 million ($30 million) to help shore up losses suffered by film distributors.

Italy’s increased industry funding will also provide a new 35 million ($42 million) cash injection to state film entity Istituto Luce Cinecittà, with part of the money going to revamping Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.

Meanwhile, Italy is managing to contain its coronavirus contagion curve while its vaccination campaign rollout is going full steam ahead with more than 1.1 million Italians having received the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is the highest number in the EU.

However, chances of movie theaters re-opening anytime soon are very slim.

“There was some hope that movie theaters would open in March, in time for Easter (in April), but I think that hypothesis is unrealistic,” says Italian box office expert Robert Bernocchi, who adds that the fact that Universal is likely to vacate the April 2 date set for James Bond title “No Time to Die” isn’t helping prospects of reopening cinemas anytime before May.

The Italian box office dropped 71% in 2020 due to the pandemic, though some titles performed decently. “Tenet,” for instance, pulled €6.6 million ($7.9 million) following its late August release, and “After We Collided” grossed a solid €4.1 million ($4.9 million) after its September outing.

On the production side, Italian sets continue to stay open, the latest one being the Rome shoot of “The First Day of My Life,” the new film by smash hit “Perfect Strangers” director Paolo Genovese, toplining Toni Servillo (“The Great Beauty”) and co-produced by Medusa Films and Lotus Production. Cameras on “First Day” started rolling on Saturday. The title is a concept movie in which three characters who have reached rock bottom are given the chance to see for a week what the world would be like without them, as a ploy to encourage them to cheer up and carry on.

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