Gov't cuts provoke industry-wide walkout

Italy’s entertainment sector went on strike Monday to protest crippling funding cuts by the Silvio Berlusconi government that could also impact the country’s efforts to lure international film shoots.

All film and TV productions halted for the day, movie theaters and concert halls closed, and thesps did not make promo TV appearances.

The protest, staged by more than 250,000 industryites, was triggered by the government’s 40% cut to its already depleted fund for performing arts, including theater, opera and film.

This fund now amounts to €288 million ($392 million), a fraction of the coin that France and Germany invest. Last month, angry showbiz protesters occupied the Rome Film Festival red carpet to protest cuts.

The news comes just as the local film industry is on a roll, with a string of homegrown hits.

“It’s absurd that the government is throwing us this monkey wrench just now, when Italian cinema has a more than 30% market share,” lamented Universal Italia topper Richard Borg at a Rome press conference Friday for romancer “La donna della mia vita,” co-produced with Cattleya, U’s Italo outpost.

The government is also freezing the recently introduced 20% production tax credits.

These incentives, which international pics can tap into, may be renewed before year’s end when the country’s 2011 budget is approved.

But Cattleya’s Marco Chimenz said that uncertainty tied to these incentives has “already caused most movies that were supposed to start shooting during the first half of 2011 to be scrapped or postponed.”

The country’s line producers say the same about international shoots that had started warming to Italy as a viable location, as attested by Sony’s Venice-set “The Tourist.” Many are now being delayed in hopes that the turmoil will abate.

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