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Venice Film Fest Press Conference Unlikely to Be 'Blocked' by Tax Credit Protests

Venice Film Festival Lion - H 2012
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the Venice Film Festival could be the site of protests this year

Sources told THR that Thursday's protests have been downgraded, but that demonstrations and walkouts could take place on the Venice Lido if the credit is not reinstated.

ROME – Protests against the government’s decision to controversially eliminate the country’s cinema tax credit that threatened to “block” Thursday’s announcement of the full lineup for the 70th Venice Film Festival now appears to be limited.

In a wide round of government belt tightening, the government announced earlier this month it would not renew the tax credit when it expires at the end of next year. The credit helps offset cinema and television production costs to the tune of up to €5 million ($6.6 million) for Italian productions and up to €3.5 million ($4.6 million) for co-productions if they are shot in Italy.

The move sparked protests from around three dozen industry groups, including the audiovisual association ANICA, the cinema exhibitors' association ANEC, the entertainment industry association AGIS, the 100autori writers’ association, plus various regional film boards and several trade unions. Among the planned protests, the groups said they threatened to “block” Thursday’s announcement.

But since then, some limited progress has been made: New Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Minister of Culture Massimo Bray have said the government is “committed” to preserving government backing of the industry, and it now looks like cuts to the credit will be smaller than originally anticipated, funded in part by a national tax on fuel. More news is expected in the coming days.

In that light, organizers told The Hollywood Reporter they will use Thursday’s press conference to voice their worries, including one or more statements from industry groups calling for the tax credit to be fully funded beyond 2014.

The tax credit was under a similar threat in 2009, when many of the same groups threatened to take action at the Venice Film Festival press conference. But after some progress at that time, the threat was downgraded, and, eventually, the credit was fully reinstated.

Groups have been protesting whenever possible in recent weeks, including the Nastri d’Argento (Silver Ribbons) film awards earlier this month, and during Tuesday’s announcement about the lineup for the Venice festival’s autonomous Venice Days section.

At the Venice Days announcement, Giacomo Durzi from the 110autori association, said the risks were great if government backing of the sector was significantly reduced: “We remain standing, but only because we have no place to fall,” Durzi said. Several other speakers at the event likened non-renewal of the tax credit to a “death sentence” for the Italian film industry.

Earlier, from the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival, Ricardo Tozzi, president of ANICA, said the battle to renew the tax credit was not just about the economic support the credit offers.

“The government must understand the importance of the audiovisual industry to Italy in terms of culture and tourism and image,” Tozzi said. “We’re talking about millions of jobs.”

Just because the threats to the Venice press conference have been downgraded, it does not mean more action will not be taken: sources also said the groups are planning protests during the August 28-Sept. 7 festival itself, including street demonstrations and massive walkouts from any screening if government ministers attend.

Twitter: @EricJLyman