Italy’s Arthouse Cinemas Celebrate Women’s Day With Purely Symbolic Reopenings

Nick Vivarelli
·3-min read

Italy’s arthouse cinemas are celebrating International Women’s Day by symbolically reopening to stage “closed door” screenings of films and documentaries directed by female filmmakers in empty venues across the country.

The symbolic initiative is being launched by the country’s association of arthouse cinemas, called FICE. In a statement, the org noted that besides being International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, also marks exactly one year from the date in 2020 when Italian cinemas were forced to shutter due to the coronavirus crisis. Thus, the move is also a preamble of sorts to the hoped for — though still uncertain — real opening of some Italian movie theaters later this month.

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FICE president Domenico Di Noia has launched an appeal to Italy’s 500-member arthouse cinema network to “symbolically” reopen for one closed-door screening at 8 p.m. of films either directed or co-directed by women directors. Titles being proposed include Susanna Nicchiarelli’s “Miss Marx,” about Karl Marx’s ill-fated feminist daughter; Moroccan director Meryem Benm’barek’s drama “Sofia” (pictured) about a young woman who gives birth out of wedlock; and Syrian civil war diary “For Sama.”

Participating Italian arthouse venues include Milan’s Cinema Beltrade, which will be symbolically projecting “Sofia” on a real physical screen but also on its online on-demand platform, called 1895.cloud. This platform is being launched today in tandem with 10 other arthouse cinemas across Italy, including the Spazio Alfieri cinema in Florence and Rome’s Cinema Farnese. All members of Italy’s new 1895.cloud platform will also be staging symbolic physical “closed door” screenings of women-directed pics. The new platform’s name takes its cue from Dec. 28, 1895, the date when the first film was projected on a big screen in Paris to an audience of 33.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini in late February announced tentative plans to reopen Italian cinemas on March 27 in areas with lower COVID-19 infection and death rates, using new stricter social distancing norms. But it remains to be seen whether Franceschini’s plan will pan out, given that Italy is currently experiencing a surge in infections.

COVID-19 cases in Italy hit their highest level in months last week, with almost 300 deaths per day, as various impediments have caused vaccines to reach Italy at a slower-than-expected pace, forcing some regions back into lockdown to stem the surge in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.

Italian distributors are skeptical about the prospect of a real reopening of movie theaters this month, even if health and safety conditions were to allow it, because they do not have enough time to organize marketing campaigns to promote top local titles that are on the shelf waiting to get a theatrical outing.

The culture minister has specified that government subsidies for distributors and exhibitors, which are providing a safety net of sorts, will continue for a while even after the government lifts the COVID-19 ban that has forced them to shutter, so that they can gradually get back into business and maximize the theatrical value of their product.

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