According to the associations of film exhibitors, local Government should help regulating the wildfire spread of outdoor arenas in Rome. They have denounced the danger of uncontrolled proliferation at a press conference, saying that the greatest part of the 50 arenas in the region, not only are located too close to indoor theaters, but also often operate lacking safety, quality, and fiscal standards, thereby determining unfair competition within the struggling film exhibition market, which is already greatly weakened by poor content from distributors (only 33 new releases in the July-August period, 71 in September-October). As a result, they have announced the shutdown of all movie theaters in the Lazio region and the submission of a complaint to antitrust.
Here are some quick facts and figures about film exhibition in Rome in 2013:
- looking at the maps, 11 out of 28 arenas in Rome are located within 1 km from one of the 73 venues (about 74,800 seats spread over 334 screens, 272 of which are digital);
- investment for digital conversion was almost € 18 million, whereas the sector employs 2,795 people in the region of Lazio;
- total gross box office in 2014 was € 84 million from 12.5 million moviegoers.
Exhibitors’ battle for a fair market is greatly shareable and certainly needs to be sustained by the Government and understood by the people. Nevertheless, the problem this time needs to be seen with a broader perspective: film distribution needs as many forms as it is possible, and no one is superior to the others, neither theatrical. Secondary exploitation, such as non-theatrical or ancillary, is fundamental for many productions to recoup their investments, whereas less than 10% of them break-even during theatrical exhibition. Without saying that many movies do not make it into theaters, therefore alternative distribution forms such as non-theatrical or digital VOD can be sometimes the only way for them to reach the audience.
All in all, outdoor arenas are nothing new and were not built in a day: it seems that the counterpart for local exhibitors’ battle against outdoor arenas is in fact distribution, which should probably be asked not to rent current movies to occasional outdoor arenas, and only grant the license for non-theatrical and ancillary rights, which can normally be exploited passed a 6-month window after theatrical release date. Another, perhaps smarter, solution would be for exhibitors to face good weather and people’s willingness to enjoy a movie under the stars setting up their own outdoor arenas just like clubs and bars normally do.
The customer is always right, especially in the entertainment industry, so let’s try to adapt to her/his requests. When the market is depressed, then flexibility is more needed than ever: one should look at the big picture and try to collaborate with all the pieces of the value chain in order to develop the sector as a whole.