For decades, Italy’s box office has suffered the summertime blues due to a scarcity of blockbusters from the Hollywood studios, which noted that Italian audiences were more interested in going to the beach than a movie theater. However, that is changing.

The Filming Italy Sardegna Festival, which runs June 13-16 and is Italy’s single start of summer event, is perfectly positioned to become a prime driver for this crucial seasonal push.

“I’ve been saying for years that summer festivals should promote summer releases,” says Tiziana Rocca, who launched the fest on the island of Sardinia in Italy last year.

Italy’s push for summer releases is the result of a joint effort between the studios and all sectors of Italy’s film industry, largely prompted by the government that recently got all sides to sit at the table and agree to remove this anomaly that was causing a glut of titles the rest of the year.

Alarm bells rang after Italy’s admissions in 2018 dropped to just shy of 86 million, the lowest in a decade.
The initiative by local motion picture association Anica, which comprises reps from the Hollywood majors, as well as Italy’s distributors, producers and exhibitors is called Moviement. It is championed by the country’s Culture Ministry Undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni, who has allocated funds for a campaign to promote summer titles and incentives for theaters that show them.

“I hope this effort will last for three years,” says Rocca, “because times have changed and I think younger audiences will respond very positively.”

While in 2018 Italy only had four Hollywood titles on offer during the summer, in 2019 the country will be getting at least 10 big summer studio titles released day-and-date with the rest of the world. This, in turn, is prompting Italian indie distributors to also take the summer plunge and they will be in Sardinia in full force.

Case in point is the fest’s opener, Brian De Palma’s political thriller “Domino,” toplining Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten, which was partly shot in Sardinia and is being launched there by Eagle Pictures. Eva Longoria will host the opening-night ceremony.

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron comedy “Long Shot” and Felix Van Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy” will be launched in Sardinia and then released in Italy via 01 Distribution, as will Mandie Fletcher-directed “Patrick” and Johnnie Depp-starrer “The Professor” via Notorious Pictures.

BIM Distribuzione will be promoting Pablo Trapero’s “The Quietude,” starring Berenice Bejo and Martina Gusman. The film had its world premiere at Venice last year.

Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films will locally premiere John Travolta and Morgan Freeman starrer “The Poison Rose,” which does not yet have Italian distribution.

Adding some arthouse gravitas, a selection of five titles at the fest chosen by Variety critics will include Ethiopian auteur Aalam-Warqe Davidian’s tragic love story “Fig Tree,” South-African first-timer Jenna Bass’ Western “Flatland” and Chilean directors Ivan Osnovikoff and Bettina Perut’s crowpleasing doc “Los Reyes,” a portrait of stray dogs and skateboarders at the oldest skate park in Santiago. The film focuses more on the dogs than the skateboarders.

The Sardinia festival this year has tripled its venues in the capital city of Cagliari and a nearby resort that now include a 1,000- seat outdoor arena. All screenings are free of charge.