direttore Paolo Di Maira

New cinema law / A change of system

by Elisabetta Brunella and Anna Rotili

Our proposed reform,” explains Andrea Colasio “will, in a systematic and coherent way, offer a new framework for public intervention as well as the policies regarding both cinema and audiovisuals.
The aim is to combine the authorial and cultural dimension with an economic one, taking into account the sector’s specific features – an industry of prototypes but still an industry.
Another specific feature dealt with by our bill regards our domestic situation which is characterized by the oligopoly of television that, to date, has acted as an umbrella for our productions.
Here our aim is to “keep together” TV and cinema, theatrical movies and TV dramas in a virtuous relationship”.
“With our new joint set-up”, continues Colasio, “public interventions will be managed by a single National Center handling both cinema and audiovisuals”.
Where will the economic resources come from?
“The bill introduces another important innovation in this regard” replies Colasio, “the so-called “target tax” paid by all subjects who commercially exploit the film.
This tool, similar to the method used in France, offers an important injection of resources from within the sector itself.
For example, in the theatrical production chain, this tax would be paid by means of a levy applied directly to theater tickets, whereas for television it will be a percentage of the turnover”.

The “˜target tax’ is the most crucial feature of this bill.
The majority of producers and theatrical filmmakers from Anica, Api, Anac and the Movimento dei Cento Autori are in favor of it because it will generate movie financing which, according to estimates, could vary between 150 and 300-350 million Euros.
However, other operators are opposed, especially TV companies, led by Sky.
Rupert Murdoch’s pay-TV company makes an intensive use of cinema, purchasing Italian movies which have been viewed by at least twenty thousand cinemagoers according to an escalator agreed with Anica and Api.
“If the Colasio bill is passed, it would seriously damage the Italian movie industry which cannot be revived by adding new taxes”, comments Tullio Camiglieri.

The position of Giampaolo Letta, managing director of Medusa, the theatrical branch of Mediaset, is more complex.
“The levy is an idea which was put forward by Anica and Agis four years ago and we supported it because it might work in principle”, says Letta. “However, it will have to be uniform and applied to all methods of cinema exploitation and should not replace the Fus entertainment fund”.
Letta does, however, have some perplexities about the reform bill because it contains “a number of measures which reflect a decontextualized vision of television companies.
Today Medusa and Raicinema are the major investors in Italian cinema and already have financing obligations which would be reinforced by this new law with the addition of a tax.
I think that this is an excessive penalization if you consider that Medusa as well as Raicinema and Fox, the theatrical company linked to Sky, will only be able to access a small part of the benefits offered by the reform”.
Exhibitors do no object in principle to the target tax.
But Alberto Francesconi, president of Agis, warns: “We will strongly oppose any levy that is imposed solely or disproportionately on movie theaters”.
For Riccardo Tozzi, president of the Unione produttori “” Producers’ Union, the Colasio-Franco bill has many interesting aspects “but I hope that a number of points will be modified during the parliamentary process”.
According to Tozzi, the theatrical industry’s main problem is that television companies, especially the free ones, do not pay enough for movies and want all the rights to them.
The first thing to do, therefore, says Tozzi, is to “redefine the investment and scheduling obligations sanctioned by law no. 122, defining a specific Italian quota which is missing from the new bill”. “Then we can talk about the additional tax.
We do not intend to distort the accounts of the television groups but broadcasters should pay 50% of the cost of a movie”.

It is too early to say how things will go for this bill.
The very different positions taken by sector operators indicate that the parliamentary battle will be difficult and that, even if things go well, it will take a long time for the reforms to be implemented.
For this reason the Culture Minister, Francesco Rutelli, already intends to include a number of fiscal incentives and tax shelter measures for the sector in the next financial bill.
The amendments to law no. 122 may also be passed through relatively swiftly.

Cinema&Video International              n.8-9 August/September 2007

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