I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Italian movies, but I guess they’re o-k. My wife and I go on a pretty regular basis. Italian cinema doesn’t have the money to produce the special-effects-laden films of Hollywood, nor does the Italian film industry have the type of action stars that can create franchises like Rocky or Die Hard. No, Italian film-fare is pretty much relegated to comedies, dramas and love stories. For the most part, low budget, blue collar efforts that despite their many limitations have produced a few Oscar winners and screen icons along the way.
However, if you go to a multi-screenmovie theatre in Italy — of which more and more are being built — you’ll notice that (as in many European countries) the big box office champions are Hollywood films dubbed in English. For my money, this is neither good nor bad. It’s only a reflection of the tastes and wants of the public – which in this case is Italian. Apparently, what the public enjoys and what Italian politicians want to see are two different things: Italian legislation is currently being drafted that will limit the number of Expatriate films (which would include American, English, Canadian, etc) that can play in Italian movie theatres.
According to an article in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera (24 January) the new legislation will enforce a two-to-onerule which basically stipulates that for every American film there must be twoEuropean films and of those two European films one film must be Italian. So in a 6 or 8-screen multiplex, no more than two or three American films can play at any given time.
The average person in Ohio could probably care less about this legislation, but this speaks more and more (loudly) about the way America is being viewedoverseas and particularly in Italy — where the newly elected political party has been less-than-enthusiastic over such topics as Italy’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and a new military base that’s being constructed in the Northern City of Vicenza.
Italian policy makers aren’t going to come right out and say it, but this new movie legislation could be seen as a subtle way of saying “screw you” to the USA.
But I digress.
The film industry is governed by the almighty dollar (or euro as it were) and it’s hard to argue with what the top money-makers were at Italian cinemas during 2006. The top ten films were:
1) The Da Vince Code (USA)
2) Pirates of the Caribbean II (USA)
3) Ice Age II (USA)
4) My Best Enemy (Italian)
5) Christmas in New York (Italian)
6) The Devil Wears Pravda (USA)
7) Cars (USA)
8) The Night before Exams (Italian)
9) Match Point (United Kingdom)
10) The Departed (USA)
Let’s break this down a little bit more. In 2006 there were 196 American films playing in Italian movie houses as compared to 100 Italian films and 89 foreign films. This translated to American films earning 338 million euro at the Italian box office (about 360 million dollars) while Italian films earned about 135 million euro and foreign films — those coming from France for example – earned about 61 million euro. I’m seeing a little disparity here. As you can see, this is not to say that there wasn’t a selection of Italian films playing in movie houses during 2006. There were quite a few, but most of them were soon forgotten. Typically playing a week or two at the most and then going direct to black market DVD.
Under the new legislation — known as Article 32 — there would be a combined 257 Italian and foreign films compared to 128 American and other “expatriate” film efforts.
Italy is not the first country to do this. France has been doing it for years as a way to protect their culture, language and whatever other ethno-centric issues it’s insecure about. In France there’s a limit to the number of signs that can be printed in English, at Euro-Disney there has to be an equal number of characters that are French as to not be outnumbered by the American Disney characters and…well…don’t get me started on France. In all fairness though, we’d probably do the same thing if the show was on the other foot.
Meanwhile, back at the movie theatres….
According to the article in the Corriere Della Sera, Italian film industry professionals seem to be divided on the new legislation. Many grew up with American films and learned from them. On the surface Article 32 would seem to push for more Italian made productions but “….at the end of the day,” stated one director who wished to remain anonymous, “…the films have to earn back their production costs and most of the Italian films simply do not accomplish that to a degree that could be deemed profitable…”
I’m not too worried. I’d just as soon rent a DVD or order one on-line — and watch it in whatever language I choose — in the comfort of my own home anyway.