U.S. Pics The Pick

Italian moviegoers say they like seeing local Italian films, but do they really?

The conclusion of a survey commissioned by Italian film production association ANICA suggests that Italian filmgoers appreciate home-grown fare with only a slight preference for U.S. films; national B.O. grosses, however, indicate a much larger majority still flock to American pics. The poll was conducted by research institute CIRM and was called “Italian Cinema in the 1990s: Strategic Development Lines for Film Production and Distribution.”

The survey was undertaken earlier this month via 1,000 phone interviews with Italians who go to the movies an average of six times per year. However, the gap between the CIRM findings and the reality of the Italian market is a considerable one.

The survey found 50.5% of those interviewed revealed an overall preference for U.S. films, while 41.9% claimed to favor Italian pics. Also, 60.1% reported going often to see American films, while 44.9% said Italian releases were their most frequent choice.

The credibility of the results appears stretched when placed alongside national box office charts showing U.S. releases currently accounting for almost 75% of receipts while Italo pics content themselves with a trifling 15.4%.

Among national directors, Oscar-winners Giuseppe Tornatore and Gabriele Salvatores topped the popularity polls, followed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Nanni Moretti, Michelangelo Antonioni and Dario Argento.

The high placing of actors such as Ornella Muti, Sophia Loren, Monica Vitti, Marcello Mastroianni and Alberto Sordi, who seldom or never work in new Italian features, indicates that many of the interview subjects may be a little out of touch with the current national film panorama.

While the title and aims of the ANICA survey promise an aggressive strategy to help pinpoint the problems of Italian cinema and steer the flagging industry in a more commercially viable direction, the results remain largely abstract.

Interviewees commended Italian cinema for its realism, its approach of serious themes and its introspective qualities, but placed it way behind U.S. films in the crucial components of excitement, audience involvement and technical prowess.

While some of those questioned expressed satisfaction with the lowbrow, holiday-season comedies that frequently obtain commercial success in Italy, and others admired the handful of major quality releases that break out each year, most felt the sea of mediocrity in between is what’s keeping the industry down.

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