Italy 2015 in Review: Productions Roll, Netflix Launches, Rome Fest Rebrands

Rome Film Festival - H 2015
Courtesy of Roma Cinema Fest

The country's box office booms, and the Rome festival attracts such big names as Jude Law, Wes Anderson, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand.

Italy’s box office was on the upswing in 2015, thanks to the help of new franchises and animated hits. The country’s production offerings are being applauded once again after a series of high-profile foreign shoots in its capital.

And the Rome Film Festival had a successful rebranding under a charismatic new leader.

Here is THR's look at the big media and entertainment industry stories that shaped 2015 in Italy.

Box Office Booms

After several years of faltering ticket sales, box-office revenue is once again booming in Italy.

The country’s rampant piracy was no match for the year’s strong animated films as families have made an event out of going to the cinema. Inside Out was the number one film of the year in Italy as of Dec. 20, with $27.7 million, according to data from Cinetel. To compare, 2014’s top film, Maleficent, made just $19.1 million.

Minions, in the number two spot, pulled in $25.6 million, and Fifty Shades of Grey at number three has raked in $21.5 million. With other franchises, including Fast and Furious, Star Wars, James Bond and Jurassic Park pulling in the audiences this year, things are looking up for Italian distributors.

So do Hollywood Shoots

Hollywood productions also returned to Rome in 2015 with Zoolander 2 being filmed within the city and Paolo Sorrentino’s new TV series, The Young Pope, taking on various locations around the city.

Plus, the new Ben-Hur shot in Rome and around Italy.

The fabled Cinecitta Studios are once again attracting big productions after years of inactivity. Its representatives have been touring Los Angeles to tout Italy’s attractive tax incentives.

Audiences got a taste of the high level of Roman production value with Spectre this year, with a short segment that had James Bond visiting the Italian capital.

Rome Festival Rebrands

On the film festival circuit, NYU professor Antonio Monda took over the reins at the Rome Film Fest, bringing back the talent and organizing the event around a series of talks with the public.

Guests in 2015 included such big names as Jude Law, Paolo Sorrentino, Todd Haynes, Wes Anderson, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand.

The quality of films also went up, according to attendees, with recently buzzed-about films, including Truth and The End of the Tour.

Overall, the festival rebranded to become a people’s celebration of cinema, rather than as a juried competition to positive reviews from people in attendance.

Netflix Launches

Amid much fanfare, Netflix Italy launched in October with a glamorous celebration in Milan with the streaming video giant's top original show stars, including Taylor Schilling, Will Arnett, Krysten Ritter, Daryl Hannah and Pierfrancesco Favino of Marco Polo, its multi-continent series on the Italian explorer. 

But with less than spectacular bandwidth speeds across the nation, it wasn't clear if Italians would be signing up for the service, which hasn't disclosed subscriber figures for the country.

Netflix hopes to bring in more people with the launch of more original series tailored to Italian audiences. The company is starting with Suburra, a 10-episode mafia drama that will premiere in 2017, exploring the ever-popular topic of local corruption. The series is based on the film by Stefano Sollima, a local hit in Italy, which is currently available for streaming on Netflix in the U.S. and in Latin America.