Last Friday, Italy’s Culture Minister, Alberto Bonisoli, announced that Italy will force feature films to screen in theaters before they become available over the Internet. This new law intends to protect Italy’s film industry, especially cinemas. This means that audiences will need to pay for theater attendance if they want to see films like Sulla Mia Pelle when they debut.
Italian convention already holds as standard a 105-day delay between theater and streaming releases. With the passage of this law, that delay becomes official Italian policy.
Netflix has recently stepped up feature film production, introducing full-length movies in several languages. As it gathers steam as a producer of content, its activity draws speculation that it will compete with theatrical releases for festival accolades in an increasingly crowded and asymmetrical film market. This was the case when several streaming features, including award-winner Roma appeared in the Venice Film Festival, prompting complaints from the Italian film industry. Italy’s action suggests that Netflix may eventually have to compromise on the film industry etiquette whose breakage predicated its prior success.
Italy’s policy could be a harbinger – or a test case – for how other nations will handle the changing role of the streaming giant. However, considering the increasing popularity of streaming services, it is also conceivable that Italian movie fans will simply stay home, wait for their desired film to appear on their laptop screens, and watch something else meanwhile.
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