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UniCi Consortium has announced that it won’t screen Netflix films day and date in cinema until future regulations are in place to protect exhibitors in Italy.
UniCi is a network of independent cinemas that operate under joint strategies, representing about 15 percent of the Italian box office. UniCi president Andrea Malucelli issued a strongly worded statement calling for new rules to be placed on the entire industry, including but not limited to securing official theatrical windows for films in Italy.
A controversy following the Venice Film Festival has pitted local exhibitors against the streaming giant. Alessio Cremonini’s police brutality drama On My Skin was released in cinemas directly after its Venice premiere. While it did relatively well in the box office, many cinemas boycotted the film, seen as unfairly advantageous to Netflix. Lucky Red’s Andrea Occhipinti, a producer of the pic, resigned his position of ANICA president of distributors after he claimed too few cinemas embraced the film.
Cinemas in Italy have had lackluster sales since last year and continue to battle with piracy as well as an always slow summer season. Moreover, the exhibitors criticized the Venice fest, which is paid for with public funds, for providing such a huge marketing campaign for the U.S. company. Netflix had six films at Venice after Cannes banned it this year, with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma winning the Golden Lion. Netflix does not have any full-time staff in Italy, nor did it launch any major events during the festival.
Italy is not currently bound by strict cinema distribution windows, as France is, but has generally followed a gentleman’s agreement of at least a month after a cinema premiere. The letter from UniCi asks for a clear distribution channel for films in cinemas, and is appealing to MIBAC, Italy’s ministry for cultural heritage and activities, to set in place new regulations.
“The absence of rules, in our country more than elsewhere, has already opened us up to abuses that we consider unacceptable and which should not be repeated,” said Malucelli in his letter. “The UniCi Consortium strongly appreciated the interest over a period of time with the opening of a dialogue with the MIBAC aimed at obtaining answers. We believe that the MIBAC has then become a guarantor in the drafting of an agreement on purely political issues: in short, we are asking for new rules for the new market.”
Malucelli also emphasized the importance of all distribution channels working together to find a solution: “We are confident that, thanks to a model of time a day, the big screen will always be more competitive than any other operator. Likewise, we think it is essential to have a continuous communication and promotion campaign, shared by the entire supply chain, aimed at enhancing the experience of cinema in the hall and aimed at the younger audiences.”
According to Francesco Rutelli, president of ANICA, Italy’s national cinema association, new regulations of investments from Netflix and other streamers should be in place by the end of the year. A new law recently passed the European Parliament requiring streamers to have 30 percent European content in each country.
Rutelli tells The Hollywood Reporter: “Everything is constantly changing, so we have to find a solution that is halfway between the free markets and the institutional regulations to both strengthen the industry and not restrict creativity.”
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek