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The “Cinema in Search of New Inspiration” panel probes the future of the Italian and European audiovisual ecosystem


- The event was organised by Cineuropa, AGICI and Vento & Associati and was attended by prestigious guests from the Italian audiovisual sector

The “Cinema in Search of New Inspiration” panel probes the future of the Italian and European audiovisual ecosystem
The experts who took part in the panel discussion

Yesterday, 13 January, saw a “recovery” panel unfold in virtual form, probing the future of the Italian and European audiovisual ecosystem, intitled “Cinema in Search of New Inspiration”. Organised by Cineuropa, AGICI (General Association of Independent Film and Audiovisual Industries) and Vento & Associati, the event was moderated in its entirety by Cineuropa’s director Valerio Caruso, and saw the participation of numerous experts from Italy’s audiovisual field, namely Luigi Lonigro (President of Distributors at ANICA and the director of 01 Distribution), Carlo Fontana (AGIS’ president and a member of the Confcommercio-Enterprise for Italy council), Giancarlo Leone (president of APA – Association of Audiovisual Producers), Mario Lorini (cinema operator and president of ANEC – National Association of Cinema Operators), Chiara Valenti Omero (president of AFIC – Association of Italian Film Festivals), Cristina Priarone (president of the Italian Film Commissions) and Roberto Olla (executive director of Eurimages).

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Following opening speeches from Andrea Vento and Angelica Riganti, Caruso spoke briefly about the economic impact of the pandemic and trends in the European audiovisual industry over recent years, stressing its fragility and “relatively low growth rate”. Indeed, according to a recent report by the European Audiovisual Observatory, a decline of 0.2% has been recorded over the past ten years. The field of VOD, however, deserves a separate discussion, having grown by 83% in 2018 to reach 100 million subscribers in 2019. A spike in European series production has also been recorded, increasing two-fold over the past five years. After 2019, which was a “relatively good year in terms of turnover and distribution,” 2020 was, for obvious reasons, characterised by the collapse of the theatrical sector (-65%), a decrease in TV advertising (-16%) as well as in home entertainment (-5%), and the rapid growth of OTT services (+38%).

The floor was then opened to Fontana, who didn’t express any concerns over ministerial action, but did make clear the need to keep the relationship with the audience alive, especially over the long term. In this sense, the only way to limit the negative effects of the health crisis is to adopt a meticulous and shared “strategy for the entertainment industry in terms of re-opening venues”. Leone spoke about the productive context, explaining how sets were closed from the end of February until June-July time. At present, film and series production “has resumed with great intensity”, thanks to producers’ courage and ministerial action. In terms of the risk of “colonisation” on the part of platforms, Leone doesn’t see any danger of this, on condition that they “work in very close collaboration with independent producers, without replacing them and without using their great economic-financial heft to adopt production principles different to those usually adhered to in our country”.

On the topic of cinema operators and distribution, Lonigro said that the pandemic’s arrival at a buoyant time for the market had meant that many had been able to weather the storm pending outside support, but it had also put an end to “a time of extraordinary ferment”. He then went on to say that many producers and authors had bravely protected the central role of cinemas. Indeed, a variety of high-profile titles, which have been ready to go for a year, “decided to wait for cinemas” rather than opting for online distribution. Lorini agreed with Lonigro on the subject of cinemas’ centrality and praised the efforts of the entire sector, encouraging those working within the sector to look forwards, despite political and Covid-related uncertainties which are continuing into 2021.

For her part, Priarone spoke about the extensive role played by film commissions in the national audiovisual landscape, in pre-Covid times but, crucially, in the current situation, which has helped to make Italy “a safe country for film shoots”. Valenti Omero subsequently affirmed that even though “the decision to move online was the only available option” for 80% of festivals, and that contact with viewers had suffered as a result, this forced digitalisation has ultimately fostered greater co-operation between festivals and served to increase their visibility, which has allowed them to tap into new audiences. Olla, meanwhile, expressed cautious optimism over Eurimages’ results, given that the organisation supported two more projects in 2020 than in the previous year. The real challenge, Olla insists, will be market intervention from 2022, because “distributors and TV networks will be less willing to take risks” owing to their reduced investment capacity. “If public aid compensates for the market’s lack of swing, we might be able to make it through this period and keep production constant at a European level,” he added.

In the last forty minutes, the event has hosted two three-people panels with a view to putting a few questions to previously called-upon experts. The first involved Luciano Belloni, Fabio Meloni and Alessandro Zanin while the participants of the second were Raffaella Bisceglia, Debora Desio and Andrea Maffini. The talk ended with greetings from Andrea Vento and Angelica Riganti.

Watch the talk here:

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(Translated from Italian)

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