Because the bonuses of Minister Sangiuliano will not be enough to save Italian cinemas

Because the bonuses of Minister Sangiuliano will not be enough to save Italian cinemas

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano presented a long-term strategy to give new prominence to culture in our country. Enough free museums and go to the allocation of 10 million to bring spectators back to Italian cinemas also thanks to convenient offers. For some time now, our cinemas have been suffering from a terrifying crisis, with various realities closed or that will be closed shortly, and a haemorrhage of spectators and therefore of truly dramatic revenues. But what are the causes? Does it really depend solely on the pandemic of the last two years? Or should we look at a cinematographic reality, the Italian one, which appears far from modern sensibility, too tied to the past? The answer is certainly complex.

The strategy to relaunch cinemas

Gennaro Sangiuliano is an essayist and journalist, known to the general public for several publications with which he has often managed to climb the rankings in our bookstores, in particular with biographies dedicated to the powerful men of our time. For a long time sent to some of the hottest and most dangerous areas in the world, he was deputy director of Libero and Tg1, director of Tg2 until a few days ago, as well as founder of the Roma newspaper in Naples. His profile is that of one of the most important faces of the media and right-wing journalism in Italy. Therefore, he should not be surprised by his vision of museums as no longer free to the Italian public, which refers to a different conception of the management of culture, which for his political area must be more self-sufficient. It matters little that museums are almost always free abroad. The average Italian has for years now had a bad relationship with knowledge in general. Some say the fault of cathodic Berlusconi. Also, but not only.

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Sangiuliano from Bruno Vespa to Porta a Porta, going against the statements of its Undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi (but who surprise eh?) said that "keeping museums free does not hold up economically and depreciates the value of the works". Then he specified his plan of action: "we have the money from the NRP and they must be spent honestly and efficiently ... we are the first cultural superpower on the planet, culture, if used well made attractive and usable, can be a factor in increasing various points of GDP. " Finally, he addressed the issue of the film crisis: “those who book with the Spid will get a discount of 3 or 4 euros for admissions. The crisis of the cinema will be at the center of my work ”Sangiuliano promised. A situation that has practically brought an entire sector to its knees. The pandemic helped to destroy an industry, but certainly what was done by the various executives who took turns leading the country during the pandemic, was a complicity in a negative sense, to say the least terrifying.

Sangiuliano is well aware that cinemas and theaters immediately ended up on the black list, treated as if they were essentially the main source of the spread of the virus. The reality is that this happened above all at workplaces, supermarkets, stadiums, schools. But not much could be done there, they were too important realities, hence the litmus test of cinemas and theaters to be persecuted, also by virtue (let's face it) of little or no political weight. Before the pandemic, in 2019, Italy had registered a sensational turnaround, that summer was the best ever for the Italian box office. However, Covid19 and its closure led to the loss of something like 70% of the proceeds in 2020, a damage of 460 million euros. For heaven's sake, it was something that did not only concern Italy, cinema has gone into crisis everywhere, also due to competition from platforms. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Apple TV, HBO have become the ever-changing alternatives that even distribution and the majors have embraced, partly because they are forced partly because they are also affordable.

A film offering with little appeal

Has the pandemic therefore changed the habits of the viewer? Yes, and never as much as in Italy. In the following 24 months, with the alternation of contradictory measures to combat the pandemic, with the opening and then closing of the cinemas, the curfew, interventions in support of the categories of the sector which were rather insufficient, the losses were nevertheless terrible. In 2021 it was 72% compared to 2019, also thanks to the obligation to continue wearing the mask to the cinema. The 25 million in March 2022 allocated by the Draghi government seemed almost a mockery and it is not that those promised by Sangiuliano therefore appear in a better light, also because basically it seems to ignore the qualitative crisis of our film sector. This year that is going to end has not been a positive one for our cinema. It was supposed to mark the restart and renewal, but between what has been seen in Venice, Cannes, the Rome Film Festival and elsewhere, there is now a very clear break between what our country offers on the big screen and what instead television seriality is able to propose.

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The Italy honestly seems to be stuck in an increasingly less attractive and increasingly reduced offer of films even in theaters. Only 18% of the titles in cinemas are Italian, the others are American, British, French and Spanish. This is why Sangiuliano's words and promises about a desire to bring the Italian public back to the theater appear rather insufficient, because without an internal renewal the crisis will not stop reigning. Our cinema continues to offer familiar and short-lived comedies, illegitimate daughters of the various cinepanettoni who died together with Berlusconi which in fact, in thirty years has also sterilized a large part of our cinema, directly or indirectly. Let's not talk about authorship, which in Italy is now more and more connected to bourgeois existential dramas out of time, which make the comparison with transalpine cinema jarring. There we talk about unemployment, precariousness, sexism and racism, we connect to the reality of our days, to an existence increasingly besieged by poverty and instability with powerful films of great formal and artistic caliber.

In Italy if we look carefully, it seems forbidden to talk about all this, and when we do, we completely lack that courage, that civil and political vocation that made our cinema a great protagonist in 60s and 70s. All this gives us the image of a film industry that from a narrative point of view is stuck in the 90s, it seems not to have understood that everything has changed, as has the target audience. Just think of how much in the middle of the pandemic a film like the last Spider-Man, which literally brought back queues to our box office. And it wasn't just young people, but a transversal audience. Could it be objected that you cannot compete with an American cinecomic? All right. We can talk as long as we want about marketing, positioning, the lack of collaboration between production and distribution, about exhibitors in difficulty. But the fundamental point is that on the small screen with series such as Prisma, Skam, Tutto Chede Salvezza or Bang Bang Baby there is a great renewal, the desire to connect with the public under 25.

Immobility now unsustainable

In the dining room? We are in prehistory. In fact, our cinema still appears to be dominated by a generation of directors and screenwriters, who have often had nothing more to say for a long time than to go round and round repeating themselves. All this has led our seventh art to move towards a truly castrating conservatism. The new generation and the new talents, whether we are talking about screenwriters, directors but above all actors and actresses, find very little space. We cling to the usual names, with which we try to attract the audience to the room, offering repetitive and discounted products.

Which paradoxically, when we want to try to do something different, condemns us to sterility, to films that always arrive late as in the cinecomic field, as demonstrated by Diabolik and most recently by Bonelli's Dampyr. The first a film inadmissible for the general public, the second a product that has reached the end of the winning cycle of the genre, without any prominent stars or an innovative vision. "We Italians don't know how to do certain things", how many times have we heard this sentence? And how much has a courageous and innovative film like Freaks Out paid for this historically unassailable preconception?

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Sangiuliano should also know about the excess of prudence, not to say absurd conservatism, on the part of the productions, which never want give confidence and play it safe.

Italian audiences are often encouraged to fill the theaters for films of very poor quality, which rarely make money, and more often than not they seem suitable for a television schedule rather than for distribution in The spectator is accustomed to following this or that iconic face, actors such as Pierfrancesco Favino, Elio Germano, Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Stefano Accorsi and a few others. none of them is under 30). The face loved by the public is used to often ferry a cinematic operation that is not particularly complex or innovative, indeed more often than not quite identical to many others. This has led in the long run our cinema to have directors who know how to make only one type of film, repeated indefinitely. In recent years the comedy of the clash of the sexes has triumphed, more current topics have been treated in a superficial way.

As for filmmakers, with the exception of the few names already known for a long time, such as those of Sorrentino, Sollima, Guadagnino, Nicchiarelli, Garrone, Bellocchio, it is really difficult to find someone who enjoys esteem and attention abroad. And even among those listed, the average age is quite high. This is why the new minister Sangiuliano in reality does not have and cannot have in any case the power to save our cinemas, at least that of trying to move the stagnant situation of current cinema. The 10 million or the offers to viewers on tickets are not enough, although it is obvious that going to the cinema now costs too much. Watching a movie with a couple of snacks, now goes on the 20 euro, and it is really too much. Which then encouraged the public to go to the theater exclusively for media events that are strong: mainstream blockbusters, the very ones that our cinema does not produce. And to think that only San Checco Zalone can save the halls is something depressing and shortsighted. We need a managerial turnover, new people, new ideas, a new course, because for those who have their heads turned to the past, it is difficult to have a vision of the future.

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