They claim the move will have a strong negative impact on the country’s summer box office intake, historically a major sore spot.
Heated reactions by local movie theater operators to being deprived of “Independence Day” in July underline what is considered the main stumbling block holding up Italy’s growth as a movie market: the lack of a year-round moviegoing season. Being backed up on summer releases basically causes a glut the rest of the year.
The drop in summer attendance used to be attributed to the fact that many Italians hit the beach in those months and to a lack of air-conditioned venues. But in more recent years the problem is seen as simply due to a lack of strong product.
Italy’s two exhibitors’ orgs, Anec and Anem, have lamented that “Independence Day” in July would have had “pulling power” for other summer releases and would have prompted the possibility of “offering audiences and theater owners a wide range of films for the entire summer season.” They have also announced that “various forms of protest” could follow if Fox does not cooperate on trying to do away with Italy’s box office blues going forward.
“’Independence Day’ is our casus belli,” said Luigi Cuciniello, president of Italy’s exhibitors’ association Anec said, using the Latin expression that means an act or event that provokes or is used to justify war.
Cuciniello added that “It’s obvious that we have no prejudice or ill will against Fox,” calling the matter “a broader issue that concerns all distributors, starting with the majors.” He called the “Independence Day” move “a negative signal which we have to raise awareness about.”
Twentieth Century Fox Italy CEO Osvaldo De Santiis said the reason for the move is he was offered the “unique possibility” to launch “Independence Day” in August from Rome’s Terme di Caracalla Baths, customarily a venue for operas. The September 8 release date will segue from the Caracalla Baths launch.
“We were offered this opportunity, which is a unique event that will get plenty of media attention,” he said. “We considered this an opportunity we did not want to miss.”
Fox, which does not have much summer product this year, will be releasing “Ice Age: Collision Course” on August 25 in Italy, following previews on August 16, making Italy the last country in the world to get the latest “Ice Age” installment.
De Santiis maintains that in past years Fox has been very supportive of the summer season in Italy.
He pointed out that over the summer of 2015 Fox released five movies in Italy, including Paul Feig’s “Spy” and Jake Schreier-directed “Paper Towns,” to “positive results.”
“Fox has done more than others [to help solve this problem]. And by others I don’t just means the Italians. We kept summer [release] dates even when those dates turned out to be dangerous,” he boasted.
However critics charge that last year Fox delayed the bow of “Fantastic Four” to get it out of the potential danger zone. “Fantastic Four,” which went out in most of the planet in August, was released in Italy on September 10. The only other country around the world where the pic did not go out in August is Japan.
Meanwhile Warner Bros. (which in Italy also handles Sony product) will be releasing “The Conjuring 2” in Italy on June 2; “Angry Birds” on June 15; “The Legend of Tarzan” on July 14; “Ghostbusters” on July 28; horror pic “Lights Out” on August 4; and the hotly anticipated “Suicide Squad” on August 18; followed by “Paradise Beach.”
“We are not going day-and-date with the U.S., but we are still releasing all of these titles in summer,” said Warner Bros Italy general manager Nicola Maccanico. He added: “we have to continue to evangelize the Italian market to convince everyone that the summer is a great opportunity.”
Meccanico went on to underscore that making the summer season stronger is the only way to grow the Italian market structurally and create a market that can consistently deliver over 100 million admissions.
Interestingly, neither De Santiis, Maccanico, or Cuciniello considered this year’s upcoming Uefa Euro 2016 soccer championships, which will run for a month starting July 10, as having much of an impact on local box office.
Italy has been wavering around the 100 million admissions mark for years. In 2015 ticket sales were 99.3 million, compared with more than 131 million in Germany, more than 150 million in the U.K., and 206 million in France. The only major European territory Italy bested last year was Spain, which weighed in at more than 94 million.