Italy late on Monday became the first European country to go into lockdown mode to counter the spread of a coronavirus outbreak that has caused cinemas to be shuttered and production to stop. But the country’s film and TV industry has not hit the pause button.
Right after Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte in a prime time nightly news conference announced nationwide travel limits affecting the nation’s roughly 60 million citizens – in an attempt to stem the virus that in Italy has killed more than 460 people, the highest death count outside China – more than 9 million Italians tuned in to watch the first episode of the new season of “Inspector Montalbano” on pubcaster RAI.
The new “Montalbano,” starring (and also co-directed by) Luca Zingaretti as the titular Sicilian sleuth who is a Mafia fighting foodie, scored a whopping 39% share on RAI 1, becoming a collective anti-coronavirus rite of sorts even though Zingaretti’s brother Nicola Zingaretti, who is governor of the Lazio region comprising Rome, has been infected.
Pierre-Anton Capton, co-chief of French content company Mediawan that controls “Montalbano” producer Palomar, in a Tweet called the shows ratings result a “historic” record and praised Palomar chief Carlo Degli Esposti for his efforts in this “difficult situation.”
The Italian industry’s mantra right now is to just keep going, while taking all the necessary precautions to stay safe.
“We have a duty to work because when the coronavirus [crisis] is over — and it will end — we can’t end up with a country in ruins,” says Riccardo Tozzi, founder and co-chief of ITV-owned Cattleya the prominent shingle behind “Gomorrah,” and more recently cocaine trafficking thriller “ZeroZeroZero.”
That means that, though production is on hold until at least this summer, “all work pertaining to generating ideas, development, advancement of projects needs to be done.”
Exhibition and distribution at present are the hardest hit sectors.
“All distributors are thinking of how to deal with the fact that lots of premiers will be pushed forward, which will inevitably cause a glut of product in the fall,” says Gaetano Maiorino, head of world sales company True Colours.
“Production is at a standstill and movie theaters are shut; so we are forced to try and figure out sales strategies for titles for which we don’t have either local release dates nor international launch scenarios,” he notes, speaking from his Rome office. Starting Wednesday, Maiorino and his team will be working from home.
All Italian industry sectors are hoping the government will help them get through this bad patch by providing some subsidies. Italy’s culture minister is said by various sources to be hammering out a state of emergency rescue plan that should help partly offset losses across the board and encourage everyone to hang tight and stay afloat.
“I have a photograph in my office of London in September 1940,” said Cattleya’s Tozzi. “It’s a bombed-out building that has basically become a pile of rubble. But on top of the rubble is a desk with a typewriter; a secretary is typing and an executive, wearing a tie, is dictating a letter.
“Next to them is a sign that reads: ‘business as usual.'”