Coronavirus Causes 75% Box Office Drop in Italy as Industry Scrambles to Combat Crisis

Hidden Away Italian Cinema
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival/chico de luigi

The surge of coronavirus cases in Italy is taking its toll on theatrical box office returns which plunged this weekend by more than 75% compared to the same frame a year ago.

With nearly half of the country’s screens shuttered, the Feb. 28-March 1 weekend’s total intake was a measly roughly €2 million ($2.2 million), according to box office compiler Cinetel.

Italian box office during the previous weekend, when the virus crisis had already struck – but with a bit less alarm – had sunk to €5.5 million compared with more than €12 million during the same period in 2019.

As of Monday, over 1,600 cases of the virus have been confirmed and 34 people have died, making Italy the country with the world’s third-biggest outbreak after China and South Korea.

Worst affected are Italy’s Northern regions such as Lombardy and Veneto and others were cinemas have been closed. On Monday roughly 850 Italian screens had been closed out of 1830 in total.

Film release patterns in Italy are now thrown into disarray with Universal postponing the local outing of Elisabeth Moss-starrer “The Invisible Man” to an unknown date, one of a myriad planned releases that have been pulled.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini late last week held an emergency meeting with Italian film industry reps declaring a “state of crisis” and urging the government to work closely with health authorities to monitor the situation closely and, where and when possible, to swiftly identify areas where movie theaters can be reopened.

Striking an optimistic note local distributor 01 Distribuzione on Monday announced they had decided to take the plunge on Berlin prizewinner “Hidden Away,” the biopic of eclectic painter Antonio Ligabue that scored acting honors on Saturday at the fest for protagonist Elio Germano.

“Hidden Away,” which had skipped its planned Feb. 27 release, will now go out on March 4 following “an in-depth analysis” of the situation said 01 chief Luigi Lonigro.

Lonigro added that the film would clearly have a smaller market until March 8 when shuttered screens in Northern Italy may be reopened if the crisis subsides or is at least contained. He appeared confident that movie theaters in the North will soon be back in business.

“We have a movie with great buzz that can give it staying power,” Lonigro noted. This will allow “Hidden Away” to recoup lost ground when movie theaters reopen, he optimistically predicted.

The release of Italy’s other Berlin prizewinner, the dark drama “Bad Tales” by Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo had previously been set by Vision Distribution for April 16.

Italy’s coronavirus outbreak has also impacted production with Paramount announcing last week they had been forced to halt the planned Venice shoot of “Mission: Impossible VII.”