Film industry protests loss of tax incentives

Upcoming Italian film fests may face a dearth of homegrown fare if the country’s major film orgs carry through on their threat.

Italy’s main film industry orgs say they will boycott the Venice, Rome and Turin film festivals to protest the new Silvio Berlusconi-led government’s decision to scrap eagerly awaited film-production tax incentives.

Incensed industryites are urging international distributors to follow suit.

The tax breaks, approved late last year by the center-left government headed by Romano Prodi but not yet in effect, would have provided some 25% of a film’s budget up to e5 million ($7.7 million), with foreign production companies filming in Italy also eligible.

Italian producers had been seeking such incentives for decades. But the Berlusconi government blocked the rebate initiative in line with its overall tax-cutting efforts.

Calling the Berlusconi block on tax breaks “a devastating act,” Italian motion picture association Anica, general entertainment org Agis and independent producers body API on Tuesday released a scathing statement venting their rage over the elimination of the tax breaks approved by the previous center-left government. The coin had been expected to breathe new life into the industry.

The orgs, which represent the bulk of the Italian film community, also urged “the entire world’s cultural industry” to join the initiative.

“It must be clear to everyone that the government, breaking a precise commitment, has decided to inflict a mortal blow to Italian cinema at a time when it is proving, even at an international level, its artistic and industrial vitality,” the statement said.

The Venice Film Festival, which is due to open Aug. 27 with the Coen brothers’ spy comedy “Burn After Reading,” had no comment about the threat.

The country’s film production spend in 2007 was $496 million — much less than the respective $1.53 billion and $1 billion in France and Germany, where tax credits drive vibrant industries.

Even some members of Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, which took power in May, urged the government to backpedal.

“I will try to get the finance minister to reconsider his position,” said TV thesp Luca Barbareschi, a recently elected right-wing member of the parliament. “Italian cinema must be allowed to keep growing.”

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