Lido hardtop gets Italo coin

Government shows support for Venice fest

In a move to support the Venice Film Festival, the Italian government has decided to allot $3 million to finance another permanent theater on the Lido.

It will be constructed on top of the current Palazzo del Cinema and will contain 800 seats. Last year’s stop-gap tent theater, the PalaLido, was demolished immediately after the festival to make way for a ballpark. A similar structure is planned for this year’s Sept. 3-13 Venice fest, filling the emergency until the new hardtop is in place.

Italy’s minister of Cultural Heritage Walter Veltroni made the announcement in Cannes, where he expressed satisfaction at seeing two Italian films in competition and two more in sidebars.

“The most important thing,” says Veltroni, who also heads the Department of Entertainment, “is that Italian movies stage a return worldwide.” He says that plans are well under way to launch an agency like Unifrance dedicated to promoting Italian cinema abroad. The agency, which will not be directly state-run or financed, is being created by several participating professional associations including Anica, Rai Intl. and Ente Cinema. These groups have not yet reached full agreement on what it will look like or when it will bow.

However, optimism was much in evidence as the minister listed a long series of gains made in the local production and exhibition sectors. Box office share for Italo productions and co-prods appears to have momentarily stabilized at a solid 26%, with the U.S. share at 59%. The latest figures for May 1998 show a huge 15% jump in overall box office revenue between the 1996-97 season and the one in progress, while attendance rose 13.5% in the same period. Meanwhile, liberalized authorization to open and renovate film theaters has added more than 500 new screens in the past year, with the national total rising to 2,844 from 2,326. That number is expected to continue to swell this year.

As Veltroni pointed out, Italy still lags far behind France and Germany, which count more than 4,000 screens each.

While growing movie attendance is a trend throughout Europe, it is interesting that the gains being made in Italy, Germany and the U.K. are all in favor of national product and, to a lesser extent, films from other Euro countries.

“The statistics show a readjustment in Italian audiences’ filmgoing habits,” Veltroni says. “Our films used to be poor movies shot in the director’s kitchen. They were devoured by television in the ’80s and ’90s. That is no longer the situation.”