Industry goes on strike to protest funding cuts

ROME — Italian cinemas, theaters and concert halls were shuttered Friday as all sectors of the country’s entertainment industry went on strike to protest draconian arts-funding cuts planned by Silvio Berlusconi’s government.

Massive protest saw thousands of workers — from techies to top talent — as well as helmers, producers and festival toppers convene for a rally in central Rome before marching toward Parliament in a demonstration blocked by police in riot gear.

Trigger for the unprecedented action is an announced 40% cut in the comprehensive arts fund, called Fondo Unico Spettacolo. FUS would shrink to E300 million ($362 million) if the current national budget proposal is passed.

“Dear Silvio Berlusconi,” said producer Aurelio De Laurentiis at the rally, “You made your money with film and TV. Nobody more than yourself should be willing to sympathize with the need to support the arts, so that they can generate more wealth.”

Among the many film industryites in attendance were helmers Roberto Benigni and Nanni Moretti, RAI Cinema topper Giancarlo Leone, Mikado’s Roberto Cicutto and Venice fest chief Marco Muller. Muller confirmed that the upcoming edition of the Lido event is at stake.

The strike affected the opening weekend of Benigni’s “The Tiger and the Snow,” which bowed Saturday instead of Friday on 950 screens, nearly a third of the country’s total.

Italo unions claim FUS cuts could jeopardize the future of 5,000 companies and 60,000 jobs.

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