The number of Italian feature films finding a home outside of Italy doubled between 2017 to 2021, according to a new landmark study commissioned by local cinema body Anica.
Extracts of the research, conducted by Emilio Pucci at eMedia for Anica, were unveiled in a presentation at Rome’s MIA market on Wednesday.
The study’s preliminary findings suggested that between 96 to 118 Italian feature films were distributed outside of Italy in 2021, against between 43 to 52 in 2017. This, in turn, suggested that an estimated 49% of Italian features produced in 2021 had travelled outside of the country.
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Pucci explained it was difficult to give exact data, as information was still being verified, so the report gives best and worst-case scenario estimates throughout.
Breaking the 2021 titles down by genre, 68% of the features were fiction features, 31% were non-fiction, and just 1% were animations.
“This is the first time this sort of work has been done,” said Anica General secretary Francesca Medolago Albani.
“The first results give us faith in the method and have made us understand there is still a lot to uncover to be able to explain the trajectory of the Italian industry in recent years.”
This first study will be the basis for future research.
One trend found to be driving the increased international mobility of Italian films was an increase in the number of co-productions involving Italian partners, which rose to around 50 a year from 2019 to 2021, against an average of 30 between 2012 to 2016.
In 2021, 49% of the features that travelled were co-productions, 26% had been acquired or commissioned for the global platforms and 24% had been picked up for theatrical release.
Between 2017 to 2020, co-productions involving Italian partners had attracted €100m ($97m) in that period, double the amount generated by co-productions in the previous four years.
The study also attempted to ascertain the economic value created by the international circulation of Italian films.
Combining the amounts invested by minority co-production partners, contributions by state and European-wide funding bodies, buyer minimum guarantees, and revenue derived from international markets, the study put this figure at between €59m to €114m in 2021, against between €19m to €30m in 2017.
Investment by global platforms was not included in this initial study as it was too difficult to obtain exact figures from the streamers, said Pucci.
The report also looked at the catalogue sector. There were currently 33 Italian companies, looking after 4,300 titles dating up to 2016. Revenues for these catalogue titles in 2021, were estimated at between €6m to €12m, representing a 10-15% rise on 2017.
Producer Carlotta Calori, co-founder of Rome-based Indigo Film, and Andrea Occhipinti, CEO of production and distribution company Lucky Red were among those who joined a panel discussion on the findings following the presentation.
Calori said the data chimed with what she was experiencing on the ground at international markets and co-production events.
“Seven, eight years ago, we often felt like we were in the second row,” commented Calori. “Unless a film had an Italian element, we didn’t get a look in. Today, the situation has changed dramatically. We see an incredible interest in our productions.”
She suggested this change in attitude was due to a number of factors, ranging the the work of regional film commissions to attract productions, the rising quality of the country’s technicians, and new generation of filmmakers and writers with an international mind-set.
Anica’s Albani also pointed to the impact of government policies to support of the film and TV sector including the tax credit as well as more focused instruments such as the Film Distribution Fund and the minority international co-production fund.
Occhipinti suggested the global platforms had also played their part by introducing Italian cinema to audiences that did not traditionally watch films from Italy.
However, while welcoming the positive trends in the report, the producer and distributor said more work needed to be done to further boost the international performance of Italian films.
He noted the poor showing of animation in the export mix, which represented just 1% of the films finding international homes.
As well as revealing the “scandalous” lack of support for animated feature production in Italy, Occhipinti said the figure also pointed to the need to diversify Italy’s feature film offering.
He suggested the country needed to take a leaf out of France’s book.
“They’re extraordinary. Their exports range from the films by Luc Besson, that sometimes feel American, to animation and nature documentaries The diversity of their offering is fundamental. After American cinema, it’s perhaps French cinema which is most sought after, at least in terms of what we buy for our slate,” he said.
He also raised the question of the lack of a full-scale film market in Italy on a par with that of Cannes.
“The biggest promotor of the French film industry is the Cannes Film Festival, with its festival and market,” he said. “Everything there, if you analyze the product, 90% of it is produced, distributed, sold and co-produced by a French operator.”
“We don’t have a powerful instrument like that. Venice doesn’t have a strong market. Rome is moving in that direction but there’s no real wider strategy or discussion around this. And I think we need to give serious thought to this.”
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