Italy Enacts Theatrical Window Law Following Netflix Controversy

Screengrab/YouTube
'On My Skin'

The country has ruled against day-and-date screenings for all Italian films.

Italian exhibitors were promised changes when it came to Netflix and day-and-date screenings, and the government is making good on their promise. Italy's Minister of Culture Alberto Bonisoli on Wednesday announced he is signing into law a decree to regulate theatrical windows on Italian films.

“Cultural spaces and entertainment events have an important impact on the local economy,” said Bonisoli of the announcement.

Italy previously operated, like Germany, not with a written law but with a widely respected practice to wait 105 days to stream films after the first theatrical screening.

That agreement was broken when Netflix screened the police brutality drama On My Skin, directed by Alessio Cremonini, day-and-date in Italy after it opened the Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival. The controversy caused the film's producer Andrea Occhipinti to end up resigning from his position as head of distributors at ANICA after he said many local theaters were boycotting the pic.

Italy’s cinema exhibitors, including International Confederation of Art Cinemas (CICAE), protested the day-and-date release of On My Skin, arguing that it gave the streamer an unfair advantage over Italian theaters, which are already struggling under extreme piracy and low summer seasons in the country. Independent theater group UniCi had already announced that it would boycott screening films day-and-date.

Cinema organizations including ANEC, FICE and ACEC also argued that the Venice Film Festival, which is paid for with public funds, failed to do enough to promote European cinema this year and should not be used as a marketing campaign for a U.S. streamer. Netflix had six films in the fest this year, with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma winning the Golden Lion and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs winning best screenplay. 

The Ministry of Culture promised that new regulations would come, and shortly after the European Parliament decreed that 30 percent of a streamer’s productions must be EU-based. It is not yet clear how the new window law will affect Netflix, which currently has several series in development in the country. Thus far, the Italian rule will only apply to local films, so Roma and Buster Scruggs would not be affected. 

Netflix pulled all films from Cannes this year after the French festival barred films that could not be screened in French theaters from the competition. France previously was one of the only countries that had theatrical windows written into law, with one of the strictest policies mandating a minimum of four months for VOD and an incredible 36 months for SVOD.

Carlo Fontana, president of the Italian General Association for Entertainment (AGIS), said of the new law: "Avoiding unfair competition and relaunching the cinema as an element of promoting culture is a long-standing request, and finally we have found a solution that we welcome with great pleasure."

He continued: “Just today, we presented research that shows how much each euro invested in culture is transformed into economic wealth for the territories. I think I can say that the season in which culture was considered a residual element is coming to an end."