Workers of the Italian film industry protest as the famous studios of Cinecittà in Rome face closure after a disastrous privatization. President Luigi Abete plans to transform the studios in a theme park; the workers, instead, occupied the site and transformed it into a space of resistance. They are protesting against its mismanagement, while also denouncing the lack of proper support to Italian cinema and its workforce.
Since it’s foundation in 1937 Cinecittà has been synonymous with Italian Cinema. Particularly during the post-war period the films made by the studio created the mystique of the “dolce vita” that still shapes the stereotypical image of Italy abroad.
Despite a decrease in international acclaim since the hey-days of the 50’s and early 60’s Italian cinema has remained a vital industry, having produced 155 films in 2011. However, only 7 of these films were produced at Cinnecittà Studios. One issue has been Cinecittà’s continued focus on big-budget film during an era of a greater diffusion of smaller-scale productions. This type of poor decision-making at the executive level, combined with the issues that face the industry as a whole such as home-video, wide spread piracy, etc., is part of what has led the studio to a €4 million debt.
Despite the fact that many of these problems are being faced by large studios worldwide, President of Cinecittà Luigi Abete has proposed a remarkable solution: turn the studio’s focus from cultural production to becoming a resort and them-park for the wealthy.
The formerly publicly held studio was privatized in 1997, becoming a holding of the Italian Entertainment Group, of which Abete serves as president. Abete sits on several corporate boards and controls ownership stakes in many large companies. He also serves as president of the Banca Nazionale di Lavoro (National Bank of Work). His position at the BNL meant that when a new law was passed in 2010 that offered substantial tax savings to investors in film production Abete was able to leverage the banks capital to fund 11 films in 2 years, which provided the bank with massive tax write-offs. Incredibly, none of these films were produced at Cinecittà.
Abete, who was happy to exploit this new law in order to create tax-savings for the bank, was simultaneously unwilling to use his position as head of the studio for the benefit of Cinecittà. This executive malfeasance signaled a death-knell for the studio. With its president unwilling to support its future as a center of cultural production, and the state unable to rescue it due to cuts in cultural funding that came with the current austerity plan, the end is in site for this historical and cultural landmark.
Abete’s plan to build a five-star hotel, surrounded by beauty spas, restaurants, and parking lots; combined with the plan to build CinnecitàWorld, an amusement park expected to attract 4 million visitors yearly, means that the storied center of Italian Cinema is scheduled to become another DisneyLandesque vulgarity.
Perhaps worse, is Abete’s accompanying plan to “reduced fixed costs” by firing or outsourcing Cinecittà’s workers who are scheduled to be transferred to limited-liability companies, which are much easier to shut down through bankruptcy than a company like Cinecittà, thereby easily liquidating the workforce.
The workers at the studio have occupied Cinecittà in protest. They are not only protesting the specifics of this plan, but of the larger philosophical position of subordinating cultural heritage and production to profit. They point to the French and German examples of state support for the cinema as examples of better practice. Their campaign Save Cinecittà, is now in its 3rd month of occupation. They continue to organize events and have received the support of other similar flashpoints of cultural resistance such as the occupation at Teatro Valle in Rome. They hope to continue to gain visibility in order to further broaden the debate about the value of culture as separate from the marketplace.
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