Movies

Rai Cinema Chief Unveils Stellar 01 Distribution Lineup, Discusses Adjustment in Production Strategy in Favor of Bigger Budget Italian Films

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Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” Roman Polanski’s “The Palace,” “The Son” with Anthony Hopkins, and “Golda” with Helen Mirren are among the theatrical releases lined up for the rest of this year and next year for Italy’s 01 Distribution. Paolo Del Brocco, CEO of the distributor’s parent company, Rai Cinema, presented the lineup at the Torino Film Festival on Friday, and discussed an adjustment in his company’s production strategy in favor of bigger budget Italian films.

As well as the stellar international titles, there is also a strong Italian contingent on the 01 Distribution slate, including Marco Bellocchio’s “La Conversione,” Matteo Garrone’s “Io capitano,” “Il ritorno de Casanova,” starring Toni Servillo, and Saverio Costanzo’s “Finalmente l’alba,” starring Lily James.

“It is a luminous list because cinema in theaters illuminates cities, urban spaces, but above all it illuminates our lives, enriching them from a cultural, social and intimate personal point of view,” Del Brocco said.

There are 17 films in the lineup, but only one directed by a woman, “La chimera” by Alice Rohrwacher. “There are fewer women directors than men, but their number is growing. The fact that there is only one woman in this list is an absolute coincidence,” said Del Brocco. He cited more than 20 names of women directors working on Italian films being edited, released or in production, including Annarita Zambrano, Cecilia Bozza Wolf, Eleonora Danco, Emilia Mazzacurati and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

The presentation began on a positive note: the indicators are encouraging for Italian cinema, and everything points to a gradual return of the public to theaters. “At the top of the Cinetel [box office] ranking, next to American animation and superhero titles, we have seen a lot of Italian films in recent months. I’m referring to the results of Roberto Andò’s ‘La Stranezza,’ ‘l colibri,’ ‘L’ombra di Caravaggio,’ ‘Dante,’ ‘Il signore delle formiche’ and ‘Diabolik,’ which just came out and is doing pretty well,” Del Brocco said.

The combination of the Venice and Rome film festivals helped restore confidence in Italian cinema, and theatrical films in general, he said, as well as enhancing Italian films’ value in the market.

Although the box office figures allowed the industry to be confident about the future, Del Brocco acknowledged that they are not yet at the pre-pandemic level. However, he added: “Still they indicate that quality Italian cinema is appreciated and begins to deliver interesting figures in theaters.”

The absence in the last two years of theatrical box office champions Verdone, Ozpetek, Muccino, Ficarra and Picone, all of whom are engaged in making original products for platforms, has also weighed on the Italian box office. “The assumption is, at worst, a shortfall of 25 to 30 million euros.”

Del Brocco also addressed the state of Italian film production, in view of Rai Cinema’s mandate to look after the overall health of the local film industry, and the high number of Italian films being produced. “We continue to be convinced of one thing: from quantity comes quality. To the question ‘Are we producing too many films?’ I don’t think there is a good or a bad answer,” he said. “If we hadn’t invested so much in the production of small films by young unknown directors and hadn’t cast our nets into the sea of possibilities, we wouldn’t have discovered talents like Alice Rohrwacher, Susanna Nicchiarelli, the D’Innocenzo brothers, Jonas Carpignano, Andrea Pallaoro, Pietro Marcello and many others. But today the market is completely different from that of a few years ago. This forces us to think more deeply before investing because some films do not have good results in theaters and, because there are so many, some don’t make it on the platforms. And even though these platforms are important, very few Italians have access to them.”

Because of this, Rai Cinema will make a more rigorous selection. “It’s clear that, as a public service, we have a greater responsibility than private operators. But we have already started to change. In part, by concentrating more resources on big-budget films with a more solid production structure: quality auteur films of the size of ‘l colibri,’ ‘L’ombra di Caravaggio,’ ‘La Stranezza,’ and among those that have not been released, ‘La chimera,’ ‘La Conversione’ and ‘Io Captain’ for example. Those are films with budgets that are above the average of Italian cinema, but to which the public seems to respond more positively because they are perceived as events to be experienced in theaters. This does not mean, of course, that we will stop supporting first features, nor small productions. It does mean that we will have to focus even more on quality.”

The press conference was also the occasion to underline that the last Italian film law had produced great results for the entire film and TV sector. “Resources have increased considerably, and without the action of the government during the pandemic, we would have seen the closure of many production companies. But now we need to go further, as there is an urgent need to simplify the procedures for accessing the different forms of financing that derive from this film law,” Del Brocco said. “Another urgent need for the film system is the release for the current year and the extension for future years of the tax credit for distribution.”

Going further includes, for Rai Cinema, having a discussion on the issue of release windows, the periods during which a film must remain exclusively screened in theaters, currently set in Italy, apart from exceptions, to 90 days. “It is necessary to have a clear rule, whatever it is. The choice of the public to go or not to see a film in a theater depends on different factors, but I am convinced that an unequivocal indication on the period of exclusivity of the theater for all films can be significant in time. Even in the U.S., there is currently a rethink of the windows policy. Those who were instrumental in the decision to reduce this period to zero are now gradually backing off.”

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