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MIA 2023

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Production and international output are continually rising in Italy, while Italian films are floundering


The system is in urgent need of reform and greater fairness, as concluded by experts reading a new report presented at the MIA

Production and international output are continually rising in Italy, while Italian films are floundering
(l-r) Pedro Armocida, Lucia Borgonzoni, Nicola Borrelli and Bruno Zambardino during the panel

The first day of Rome’s MIA – International Audiovisual Market (running 9 - 13 October) hosted a panel discussion entitled “Italian Film and Audiovisual Industry Numbers - 2022”, during which the most recent data on Italian film and audiovisual production - published within the report of the same name produced by Italy’s national Film and Audiovisual Department - was referenced and debated.

Moderated by Pedro Armocida, the event was attended by Italian Undersecretary for Culture Lucia Borgonzoni, the director of the Ministry for Culture’s Film and Audiovisual Department Nicola Borrelli and the very same department’s Bruno Zambardino, who is Head of EU Affairs and Institutional Coordinator of Italy for Movies.

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“The first statistic which leaps out,” Borgonzoni insisted, “is the number of international films shot in Italy in 2022, which exceeds the total number of films shot here between 2016 and 2021, and which has grown by 60% on 2021”. Despite the critical issues this figure conceals, Borgonzoni stressed how such growth plays a crucial role in guaranteeing employment within the sector and constitutes a “boost for tourism and for the country’s recovery.” A slightly more painful and now commonly-known result relates to the reception of Italian films in domestic cinemas.

Borrelli and Zambardino went on to present the data from the report, which is now on its twelfth edition. In 2022, 355 works requested approval (an increase on 2021’s 313, 2020’s 252 and 2019’s 325). A further 29 works, not counted within later statistics, didn’t ask for support or recognition from the Ministry.

Growth in production has been experienced by all kinds of works, from documentaries to fiction films and from minority co-productions to equal and majority co-productions. The total cost of movies produced in 2022 hit €581 million, a significant rise on 2021’s €494 million, 2020’s €351 million and 2019’s €457 million. Borelli emphasised France as Italy’s most important co-production partner (with 22 co-productions recorded in 2022), whereas “a strange downturn” has been noted in their work with Germany (falling from 12 co-productions in 2021 to the single one made last year), “probably due to the rescheduling of their incentive schemes”. He then highlighted a generalised increase in budgets, revealing that no films in 2021 cost more than €10 million, whereas six productions in the following year exceeded this threshold.

In 2022, out of the €522 million invested in funding “Italian-initiative movies” (in other words, majority or 100% Italian titles), state contributions were equal to or above €200 million, 176 of which took the form of tax credit and 24 selective aid. Significant growth was also recorded in the production of web and TV audiovisual works between 2021 and 2022, with 58 web works made in 2022 (35 in the previous year) and 172 made for TV (125). What’s more, audiovisual works “of Italian initiative” cost a total of €729 million, a jump up from the previous year’s €543.8 million. Leading customers included RAI (107 works), Sky (33), Netflix (14), Chili (13), Amazon (12) and RTI-Mediaset (7).

Borrelli went on to provide a crystal-clear analysis, carefully curbing any enthusiasm: “You don’t need to be a qualified statistician to look at this data and realise that something isn’t working. Italian films had a market share verging on 40% in terms of tickets sold: we were at 37% to be exact. This year, we’ll be closer to 18%. I hope to be proved wrong, but I believe cinema operators and associations are also concerned about this”.

“The reality is that we’re all focused on our film offering and incentives, but viewers have changed, and we need to start analysing demand. [..] This excessive navel-gazing approach seems to assume that viewers need to go to cinemas for films to be made in the first place. That’s not how it is; they go if there’s something there that interests them. Why is it that we keep on producing comedies for us over 60s [..] I say this in relation to works which are made to be seen by audiences in cinemas, never mind first and second works, young authors, start-ups, complicated films …”

Borgonzoni agreed: “So many times, we’ve sat around tables and listened to people who thought they’d made a film for the wider public but that the wider public hadn’t understood it. That might be the case every now and again, but certainly not always”.

Borrelli then admitted the need to revise support systems: “We need to lend a hand in this direction, too, because we’ve helped create all this confusion with a system which places the emphasis on producing - whatever comes after is secondary. We need to reverse course”. In this sense, support systems should simply “facilitate” and “be adapted to the aims of each work”, in order to avoid confusing films devised for cinemas and for the market with other less commercial works.

In terms of the potential for change, he insisted: “I’m not especially pessimistic, especially since the more circumspect factions within the industry are aware of the need for change. That’s not the case for all of them though; it won’t be a triumphant journey. Moreover, we’re seeing exactly what we might have predicted would happen when we increased all the tax credit rates.” “Errors made by producers and the wider sector are paid for in the market when someone makes a mistake. Our challenge is to help them not to make those mistakes. We have all the right ingredients, but until now we haven’t put them together in a particularly effective way”, Borrelli concluded.

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(Translated from Italian)

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