ROME — As Italy gears up to emerge from the customary summertime box office slump with the first of the season’s major releases, a general strike by the national dubbing actors union threatens to delay the opening of some key fall titles, causing concern with the local arms of the U.S. majors.
Releases due out from now through late Sept., such as Warner’s City of Angels” and “Lethal Weapon 4,” Fox’s “Dr. Dolittle” and Buena Vista’s “Armageddon,” already were dubbed into Italian-language versions before the strike was called and, therefore, present no problem.
But titles due out in October, including “Saving Private Ryan” and “Out of Sight,” both from UIP, and “A Perfect Murder,” from Warners, still are waiting to go into the dubbing studios and may be unable to make their scheduled release dates if the strike continues.
“If the dubbers decide to go back to work this week, everything will be fine, but if the strike isn’t settled, all of the distributors are going to experience major problems with their October releases,” said Paolo Ferrari, who heads the Italian division of Warner Bros.
A UIP spokesperson confirmed that if the strike is resolved in the coming days, “Saving Private Ryan” still will be able to be dubbed in time for its Oct. 2 release.
The same source conceded that any later would make it difficult to complete work on a film running close to three hours with a large number of speaking parts.
However, UIP has so far implemented no changes to its release sked, and says that Italian press reports suggesting that “The Truman Show” — which is dubbed and ready for release but is scheduled to open later — will be moved up into the “Ryan” slot are false.
The distrib remains hopeful that strikers will return to work in time to avoid shuffling release dates.
TV imports, perhaps, run an even greater risk of being affected by the strike, with popular programs like “The Bold and the Beautiful” already reportedly behind schedule.
The dubbers began striking July 13 to demand higher wages, contracts with regular employee benefits rather than the current freelance agreements and a share in residuals from film rentals and broadcasts, which is a complex question not clearly defined by Italian law.
“Our category has never obtained a collective national contract,” said dubbing union delegate Maurizio Romano. “We are unable to contest anything, and if one of us is hurt while working, we have no guarantee of medical cover.”
Protestors have said that if their demands are not met, a delegation of dubbers will attend the upcoming Venice Intl. Film Festival to air their complaints before visiting U.S. stars whose roles are retooled by local dubbers for Italian release.
While screening new releases in their original version, at times with subtitles, has become more common in several theaters in Italy’s major cities, the practice is mainly limited to one or two days a week. The vast majority of Italian moviegoing remains very much tied to pics dubbed into the local language, and this shows no sign of changing.
No meetings have been scheduled to discuss a reconciliation, but with the local arms of the U.S. majors all due to reopen after summer vacation, negotiations are expected to take place as early as possible to avoid further glitches.