Industry Report: European Film Commissions
Luigi Cuciniello • President of the National Association of Cinema Operators (ANEC)
by Paolo Di Maira - Cinema & Video International
- The end of the year is a time for taking stock. If the numbers, in comparison to the same period last year, indicate an increase in takings and screenings, the minus sign is plain to see from the past three months, regardless of the Cinema2day promotion - a ticket for 2 euros on the second Wednesday of the month.
"I don’t think that there is a link between trends in the market in the past few months and the Cinema2day promotion", remarked the president of ANEC to Cinema & Video International. “However we are leaving behind a terrible year, particularly for Italian cinema.
The fact that, despite some film phenomena at the beginning of the year, we are currently seeing an increased audience fluctuating between 6 and 7% signifies that this year has been very difficult indeed.”
Cinema & Video International: did the Cinema2day promotion not function as it should have done?
Luigi Cuciniello: I’ll begin by saying that Cinema2day encouraged an audience to go to the cinema that wouldn’t have otherwise attended: we won over an audience that did not exist before. Pragmatically speaking, to have another million viewers or so per day signifies an increase in box office takings, even if the ticket price is only two euros.
Saying that, it would be delusional to think that from just September to November an initiative such as Cinema2day could change market trends. This kind of initiative needs to be assessed in the mid-to-long term. We will have to wait a few more months if we want to understand whether this initiative could really contribute to the re-launch of films in cinemas. At the very least, we need to wait until at least March to truly assess the situation. To see whether it has been beneficial or whether it has had a ‘desertification’ effect on the other days of the week.
What is it, then, that’s not working?
We have seen an increase in a sort of scheduling ‘schizophrenia’, with a very dramatic summer due to an absence of proposals. Italian cinema came to a halt with the release of Like Crazy [+see also:
Q&A: Paolo Virzì
film profile], which came out in mid-May. In order to reach a point where we have significant releases that are capable of reaching an average number of viewers we have to wait until mid-September. We should also take into consideration the fact that some major distributors decided to move their release dates…
So we’re in the jam-packed days of December, if we take into consideration the first ten days of January, in the next forty days there are going to be almost 40 films released (39), that’s an average of one a day.
The worst thing is that there are only four Italian films being released and they are all coming out at Christmas. It’s stubborn masochism indicating a logic that has nothing to do with the market but with a cult of personality: links between distributors, auteurs and producers. These problems are plain for all to see. In this context, talking about a two euro promotion is like the Chinese proverb of looking at the finger that’s pointing at the moon, instead of the moon itself.
Around and round we go, and we’re still talking about Cinema2day…
The initiative was proposed by Minister Franceschini and MiBACT (The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities), which is good because the cinema industry doesn’t often do promotions. It’s an investment for the entire sector; a sacrifice to box office takings in order to re-launch films in cinemas.
However if the substance is missing, i.e. the product, it’s difficult to promote. I’ll reiterate that the 2016 crisis is linked to a lack of scheduling. I understand that I’m at a risk of repeating myself.
Always having to say the same things, why do you think that is?
I think that it’s mainly due to defending income and position. Our sector is characterised by a lack of turnover.
Let’s talk about something else: Italian cinema has a new law in place. Including interesting measures, from incentives that invest in new cinemas to renewed attention in historical cinemas. What is ANEC’s assessment?
We view the strong interest positively. Now all the guidelines contained in the DDL must be developed in a coherent manner relating to the decrees that follow the approval of the law. We must commit ourselves to the cause for this to happen.
What spirit are you taking with you to Sorrento?
Gramsci’s spirit: the optimism of will and the pessimism of reason. I’ll explain myself, if we only analysed what has happened in the past few years, we would see few possibilities for change. At the same time however, a few figures give us hope: such as the fact that a million viewers a day is a lot, a good sign. It signifies that cinema still has this great capacity to mobilise its audience, even an indifferent audience. If the DDL succeeds in developing an effective path on its decrees, there could be new instruments and operative resources available. Ultimately, if there’s some good will on everyone’s part to help scheduling function a bit better, simply the scheduling of films, following the logic of common vision, then there is room to be less pessimistic.
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