Italian exhibitors are sounding an alarm over the country’s pandemic-prompted box office plunge and the removal of theatrical windows which they say are causing closure of 500 movie screens.
Their cry for help comes amid what they say is a lack of signals in Italy pointing to the cinemagoing recovery that is instead currently underway in other European countries.
Two years after Italy’s roughly 3,600 cinema screens were first shuttered, 500 of those screens have still not reopened across the country, according to Mario Lorini, head of local exhibitors org. ANEC.
Calling for action to counter this crisis, Lorini at a Rome confab urged the government to reinstate the country’s 90-day window between a film’s release in movie theaters and via streaming platforms and broadcasters that was lifted during the pandemic by Italy’s motion picture association.
Lorini said there are now hundreds of screens in Italian cinemas programming films that are also playing on platforms and TV stations at the same time, which is taking its toll on Italy’s cinemas’ ability to survive.
Italian exhibitors are up in arms after the county’s box office in 2021 plunged more than 50%, compared to the average annual recent pre-pandemic intake, to €170 million ($192 million) in grosses for the year and 25 million admissions. That is way below the 41 million movie tickets sold in 2021 in Spain, where the pandemic has not been as much of a deterrent to cinema attendance. French theaters in 2021 pulled 96 million admissions, which is just a 23.2% drop from 2019, according to figures from Comscore.
The local exhibitors’ org. is also underlining that Italian films are suffering the most from the lingering local audience’s reluctance to return to cinemas since the pandemic struck. “With few exceptions, Italian cinema has never really returned to the big screen,” ANEC said in a statement.
One notable exception is Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God,” which has been playing in Italian cinemas since last November when it was locally released theatrically with a three-week window before dropping on Netflix on Dec. 15. Though it is not known how much the Sorrentino pic has grossed, due to the streamer’s policy of not disclosing viewership data, it’s a safe bet that the now Oscar-nominated “Hand of God” has performed well on the big screen in Italy.
That said, ANEC is lamenting that going forward “no more than 35%” of Italy’s current film production output “seems destined” to get a theatrical release and many of these titles will play in cinemas just for a brief outing before “being rerouted towards platforms and TV stations,” it said.
This weekend the Italian box office saw Sony’s “Uncharted” take the top spot with a relatively strong $3.1 million haul, followed by “Death on the Nile,” which pulled $1.3 million, and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Ennio Morricone doc “Ennio,” (pictured) which took $738,000.