Italy will introduce a mandatory delay between screening Italian films in theaters and appearing on streaming services such as Netflix, in an effort to protect its domestic film industry.
The law came after a tricky problem pioneered at the Venice Film Festival this year, where several films came from US streaming giants Netflix or Amazon, including the winner of the Golden Lion festival "Rome".
Mexican director, Alfonso Cuaron is the first film by Netflix to win a big festival prize. Thanks to the success of the festival, it will begin to be released in theaters around the world on November 21 and later at Netflix on December 14.
In contrast, the French Cannes Film Festival chose only to receive films with the release of guaranteed cinemas, in an effort to protect theaters.
French law says there must be a 36-month interval between when a film is displayed in a cinema and when it can be shown by Streaming or Subscribing to Video on Demand (SVOD) services.
The result is streaming producers have to wait 36-months before they can show their films on their own platform, if they also show them in theaters.
As a result, the Venetian festival attracted several well-known directors with made-to-stream products, including the Coen brothers, Paul Greengrass and Cuaron, who were unable to compete in Cannes, attracting the anger of many in the Italian film industry.
They slammed what they saw as an attack on cinema, saying that every festival winner must be available to the wider public than only Netflix customers.
The Italian film industry calls on Minister of Culture Alberto Bonisoli to govern the issue and introduce laws that establish a "legal window" between broadcast cinema and streaming.
The 36-month provision in France is the most stringent in the world, with most other countries deciding themselves, or allowing studios, producers and broadcasters to negotiate on a case-by-case basis.
Bonisoli, from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, this week announced a new law, which has been billed as "anti-Netflix" by the Italian press, which requires all Italian-made films to be screened in theaters before being broadcast.
The law enshrines the current practice of delaying 105 days and adds some flexibility, because delays can be cut by up to 60 days for films shown in less than 80 theaters or seen by fewer than 50,000 people in the first three weeks.
"With this decision, we encourage several films to direct, or faster, towards easier commercialization," Bonisoli said.
At the same time "it is very important to protect the cinema, which in order to continue operating requires films that can guarantee income."
The chairman of the Italian business association Agis, Carlo Fontana, said that the new law protects "unfair competition (from streaming services), which can create dangerous short circuit".
"Giant streaming like Netflix makes a lot of money in Italy without creating any jobs, while their (budget) policies are far from transparent," Francesco Rutelli, the former mayor of Rome who chairs Italian cinema and the audiovisual association Anica.
However, he told the Il Messagero newspaper, "blocking the Netflix line or other platforms, which will only increase the number, is an illusion because there is no point."
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