Government cuts hit movie output

ROME — Italian film production last year dropped to its lowest point in a decade as the Silvio Berlusconi government drastically cut filmmaking coin, and Hollywood movies rose to take a 63% share of local box office.

At a packed Rome presser to announce Italo industry figures, Italian producers‘ prexy Riccardo Tozzi noted that 2009 will go down as the year that, following a protracted growth, saw a slump both in local production levels and in consumption of homegrown pics.

The number of Italo pics dropped to 131 in 2009, from 154 produced in 2008, including co-productions.

The local market share for those pics slid to 22% from 27% in 2008.

“Certainly this year’s low production level was impacted by the lack of available government funding,” said Tozzi.

Italy’s funding faucet spouted a total $34 million for production in 2009, down from $68 million in 2008. Concurrently, private investments in production remained roughly stable at $270 million last year.

Tozzi lamented that whereas five years ago the government basically covered about 50% of the costs of local production, which subsequently dropped to 20%, “now we are at a pathological 12%,” he said.

But Tozzi, who is topper of Rome stable Cattleya, in which Universal holds a stake, also blamed the slump on local producers who “have been unable to make quality movies that can capture mainstream audiences.” He cited Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” both from 2008, as examples the Italo industry has been unable to replicate.

Meanwhile, as previously announced, Italo box office grew 5% to $868 million in 2009 with admissions stable at 99 million and 3D pics, which have a higher ticket price, accounting for the slightly higher intake. The Hollywood market share rose to 63% last year from 60% in 2008 and 55% in 2007.

The top three Italo titles were “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Angels and Demons,” and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.” The leading distributor was Silvio Berlusconi-owned Medusa, followed by Universal and Warner Bros.

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