Country Focus: Italy
Italy 2003 - Minister Urbani's Reforms and the new Cinecittà Holding
by Camillo De Marco
05/02/2003 - A massive advertising campaign to get people to go back to seeing Italian films, the internationalisation of our cinema by means of agreements with other countries, the penetration of heretofore unexplored markets like Russia and China, the restoration to Cinecittà of the theatres currently controlled by Istituto Luce. These are the main points of the programme with which Italy’s Minister for Culture, Giuliano Urbani, intends relaunching Italian cinema. He set down the fundaments of this reform in an draft he sent to the new board of administration of Cinecittà Holding (see…). Everything points to an authentic revolution in appointments starting with the new managing director (MD) of Cinecittà, Ubaldo Livolsi, a major player in Italian private finance, and formerly a leading manager of the Fininvest Group and overseer of Mediaset’s being quoted on the Italian stock exchange.
According to the Minister, it is from the Holding whose job it is to promote Italian cinema, that services “ of crucial importance for this particular moment in history that cinema is experiencing” will be forthcoming. It is from Cinecittà “that the internationalisation of Italian cinema must begin. I intend to see it all over the world by means of co-productions, European co-distribution, and exploitation at various levels. We foresee a rationalisation of resources. Cinecittà will have to regroup its participations, which today are spread all over to the detriment of correct functionality. I am referring to cinemas in particular. We want to create sites with a strongly defined mission and not disperse our energies in a variety of activities. Istituto Luce must return to its historical role of always: the production of historical documentaries and the curator of the archives. It will lose its theatres but gain in terms in identity” (at present Luce manages the Mediaport multi-screen circuit – editor’s note).
“Two important surveys, by the BNL and RaiCinema, point to a worrying piece of data: members of the public think that Italian films are boring and of an inferior quality to its American counterpart.
First of all we want to promote awareness and knowledge of Italian cinema in schools. Then we would like to launch an advertising campaign to bring the public closer to Italian films. We signed an agreement with RAI that includes the creation of a news programme specialised in entertainment. We are putting pressure on the private networks, on Mediaset, for them to give Italian cinema a higher profile. Without forgetting the European scenario”
“We are intensifying our diplomatic efforts on the international scene to open to private enterprise. In the last two months we have done a lot of work with Russia and China, two new and highly receptive markets.” At the of January the minister signed a joint venture agreement in New Delhi between Italy and India that opens the way to cooperation between the two countries’ respective film industries. The agreement includes permission to shoot in either country, and an exchange of professors from each country’s national film schools in order to create new projects together. Furthermore a commission from all sides will selet the most representative Italian and Indian films and present each to the other country’s audiences. These films will be programmed in Italy’s quality film exhibition circuits and Indian films will also be included in Rai and other broadcasters’ programming line ups.
“This is a very positive time: all the European states now understand that in order to face up to the challenge of America, we must join forces. I often meet with my counterparts from France, Spain, Germany, England and together, we are taking giant steps forward to give quality European films a much higher international profile. We dream of breaking into the American market but we want to fight Hollywood on equal terms, that is why we are thinking about a theatrical circuit to release exhibitors from the blackmail of the major distributors.”
"The film funding system must change. Less discretionality in examining single projects and more attention on those presenting them. The so-called Reference System.
Some of the Minister’s statements were taken from an interview he gave to the “Il Messaggero” daily newspaper.
The guidelines of the Minister for Culture
In December 2002, Giuliano Urbani, the minister for culture and the controlling shareholder, sent a set of Guidelines to the new board of administration of Cinecittà Holding,
The aim of this document was twofold: to find the guidelines to create a programme of activities for 2003 and anticipate the most complicated reorganisation process ever undertaken by the Group. “We must set up a system that can recognise, cultivate and encourage the quality and professionality of the film and audiovisual sector”.
A brief look at the 15 key points contained in the Minister’s letter.
1. To guarantee an extended coordination by the Holding of communications activities of all the Group’s undertakings with special reference to Internet services which must be strengthened;
2. encourage the use and development of new digital technology with programmes of support and training, and by means of direct agreements with Italian and European operators;
3. To initiate an analytical study to improve the management and administration of the heritage represented by film rights owned by the State, with an appropriate return of investments for films financed by the state and assisted by the Guarantee Fund;
4. encourage, in collaboration with the Direzione General del Cinema (Film Board of the Ministry for Culture) of the creation of a single centre for the collection, analysis and diffusion of economic data (costs, revenue and the impact of the economy on the sector), both of a qualitative and anagraphic nature of Italian cinema, to supply Italian and European industry operators with a clearer view of the sector and its use, and support future selective financing policies;
5. explete a more incisive and efficient promotion in Italy of the national and European product by means of special projects, in agreement with the ministry;
6. to develop coordination of the film commissions in order to improve the services they offer;
7. activate strategies that favour new investment and the participation of a large number of national and European operators in technical industries:
8. favour the function of cinema as an instrument for promoting knowledge of Italian and European history;
9. strengthen the educational functions of Istituto Luce for more and improved promotional and didactic activities;
10. rationalise Istituto Luce’s documentary production activities, in collaboration with the National Film School, with special attention for the national and international promotion of the Italian cultural heritage;
11. maximising the commercial exploitation in Italy and abroad of Istituto Luce’s historical archive and completing its transformation into the digital format;
12. improve the distribution activities of Istitute Luce by preparing a balanced package of Italian and European films, exploitation of the products and their release into markets;
13. strengthen Istituto Luce’s management of the “circuito cinema” circuit to favour European and Italian films. Get European partners interested in creating an European cinema circuit;
14. initiate and encourage the gradual privatisation of the Italia Cinema agency, and the advent of the leading foreign distributors and/or professional associations;
15. speed up and encourage fully the promotion of Italian cinema abroad, which must respond to the strategic priorities coordinated by the Holding, including marketing aimed at maximising the impact in European and international markets, in collaboration with foreign operators.