Netflix Makes Strong Push at Lucca Comics & Games

This year Lucca Comics & Games, which draws almost 250,000 guests, will really have something for everyone.

Michael Pena and Diego Luna of Netflix’s “Narcos,” Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski, executive producer of videogame “Kingdom Hearts III” Shinji Hashimoto, “The Crow” creator James O’Barr, former Ferrari racer Jean Alesi and manga master Leiji Matsumoto are among the featured guests expected to be on hand at the event, which runs Oct. 31-Nov. 4 within the Tuscan town’s medieval walls.

This ever-evolving pop culture convention, now in its 52nd year, covers a wide range of events and their worlds precisely because it “mixes Renaissance heritage with pop culture and creative industries,” says Lucca Comics & Games director Emanuele Vietina, who says that many sectors — movies and TV series, printed comics, book publishing and audiobooks, music, video games and eSports — are “all represented [at Lucca] at the top levels.”

Lucca’s filmed entertainment section, which comprises movies as well as TV and episodic series, is being transformed by Netflix and Italian streamers, just as Hollywood majors and local producers continue to tap into its proselytizing power.

Netflix, which debuted in Lucca last year promoting season two of “Stranger Things” with talents in tow, will be back in full force with its two new “Narcos” stars, while the streaming giant’s main local challenger, TIM Vision, is launching Freeform’s mermaid drama “Siren” and “Marvel’s Runaways” into Italy.

Italian telecom TIM, which operates TIM Vision, is Lucca’s main sponsor this year. That’s a reflection of how the Italian streamer, which has more than 1.6 million subs, is ramping up operations since recently becoming a co-producer of anticipated Elena Ferrante adaptation “My Brilliant Friend” with HBO and RAI.
And the event’s official broadcaster is Sky Italia, Italian unit of the Sky paybox for which Comcast recently won a bidding war with Disney, and whose Now TV streaming platform Comcast is expected to build out soon.

“In the on-demand era, Lucca Comics represents a moment of aggregation,” says Giovanni Cova, head of Milan-based entertainment marketing company QMI, which runs Lucca’s film and TV section.

“Streamers have to speak to the community, because it’s the community that evangelizes,” Vietina says. “It’s the community that celebrates [content] and acts as a driver for the growth of their subscriber base.”

Studio presence will be strong, albeit devoid of star power. Disney will celebrate 10 years of Marvel Universe with a 19-title Marvel movie marathon at Lucca. Warner Bros. will plug hotly anticipated “Wizarding World” sequel “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” ahead of its November release, by lighting a gigantic replica of the wand wielded by protag Newt Scamander in Lucca’s central Piazza San Michele and eight other Italian cities; and Fox will premiere J.J. Abrams’ action-packed World War II monster movie “Overlord” locally.

The video games section will see Square Enix chief Hashimoto present two demos of “Kingdom Hearts III” ahead of its January release. Based on previous demos, Variety video games editor Brian Crecente has praised the game for managing “to not only absorb the best bits of the 15 games that came before it, but also enrich them with refined graphics and the addition of Pixar to the Disney-Square-Enix mash-up.”

British company VisionizAR will world-premiere a preview of fantasy role-playing game “Lone Wolf AR,” touted as the first-of-its-kind mobile game in augmented reality; it’s based on the universe created by late great fantasy author and game designer Joe Dever.

Former Formula One star racer Alesi will launch his Jean Alesi eSports Academy to train contestants for so-called sim racing, which simulates real auto racing and aims to train talents to compete in online championships, just as there is talk that eSports could be included in the Olympics by 2024.

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