Italy closes cultural department

The Italian film world said goodbye to the Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment when the building shut its gates Thursday after being voted out of existence by a national referendum. Nixing the entertainment ministry is part of a wider grassroots movement to trim government excess.

The ministry’s most important function — divvying up some $ 580 million annually in state credit and subsidies among opera and theater companies, film festivals and film producers — will be taken over by the prime minister’s office. The P.M.’s under-secretary, Antonio Maccanico, will have the job of supervising the new division.

The main impact of the closing will probably be on theatrical exhibition. Until new national film legislation comes through, each region now has the authority to make up its own rules for the licensing of movie houses.

Sources at the trade body Italian Entertainment Assn. say they expect to see a small cut in film production funding over the next few years but that the grant system will remain intact until a new film law is passed to modify it. It’s doubtful the film law will make it through Parliament any time soon.

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