Netflix Sparks Ire in Italy over Sorrentino’s ‘Hand of God’

The Italian theatrical release of Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God” is sparking protests from some of the country’s exhibitors who claim the hand of Netflix is cutting them out of the hot title’s big screen bonanza.

“Hand of God,” a Netflix original film produced by Fremantle’s The Apartment, went out on 250 screens in Italy on Wednesday via local distributor Lucky Red, marking the pic’s first theatrical outing, roughly three weeks before its Dec. 15 streaming debut.

The release of Sorrentino’s hotly anticipated film marks the widest theatrical outing in Italy for a Netflix film to date, and also the longest window between a Netflix title’s theatrical and streaming launches.

However, Lucky Red and the streamer have been under fire from Italian theater owners. They claim that they had agreements with Lucky Red to show the streamer. “Hand of God,” and that they were left empty-handed after the number of the film’s prints for cinemas was suddenly reduced from an initial 400 copies to 250.

Among those voicing complaints is Sala degli Artisti, an arthouse venue in the provincial town of Fermo in Italy’s central Marche region. They released a harsh statement saying that Lucky Red had made a deal to show the Sorrentino film. Lucky Red informed them however, one week prior to the planned release. “Netflix has decided to limit the number of copies to be released in cinemas,” and therefore the pic’s programming in their theater had been canceled.

Andrea Occhipinti, Lucky Red chief, refutes these claims. “We didn’t sign any kind of agreement that we didn’t adhere to,”He adds that “the release strategy we had always planned was for 250 copies,”He also said that this was the case. “is not a small release.”

Netflix Italy representative declined to comment about whether the company had decreased the number of subscribers. “Hand of God”From 400 to 250 copies However, the rep noted that “it’s the widest release ever done of a Netflix movie in Italy”It spans the whole country.

The current relative size “Hand of God”The Italian release is controversial. While 250 screens can be considered wide for a Netflix film, it’s not a sizeable number for a Sorrentino film in Italy.

Sorrentino’s last Italian theatrical release was Silvio Berlusconi-themed “Loro,”When it was first released in 2018, it was split into two separate parts and released back-to-back. “Loro 1”And “Loro 2.”The two Universal-released albums were released at the same time. “Loro”Instalments were shown in cinemas simultaneously, and they played on approximately 900 Italian screens.

Occhipinti observed that animosity is more important than unfulfilled demands “Hand of God”It is understandable, as Italian exporters are struggling to find good products after being closed down due to the pandemic.

He also noted that the attitudes of Italian exhibitors towards Netflix have drastically changed. It is no longer the place Netflix used to be. “being demonized” around the release of films such as Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” — which went out locally in theaters with a mere 50 copies — to exhibitors now complaining that there aren’t enough copies of a Netflix movie.

Despite this, there is still a high demand. “Hand of God,”Some exhibitors have chosen not to rent the movie in protest of Netflix.

“Now they’ve decided to release a film in 250 screens, which is unprecedented, with a three-week window — the longest window we’ve had [on a Netflix film], which they’ve allowed because it’s Italy and it’s Sorrentino,” Occhipinti noted. “We should be happy about this.”

In the next month, Lucky Red will try to accommodate requests from Italian exhibitors who’ve missed out on “Hand of God” by providing them with copies when other exhibitors end the film’s run. As a form of protest against Netflix, some exhibitors may also decide to discontinue programming the film in their theaters after the streaming service drops. But Occhipinti predicts that Sorrentino’s film will have a long run in Italian theaters, which could continue playing the film across Christmas.

While national box office compiler Cinetel closely monitors and provides figures for Italian film releases, it does not do so for Netflix films, in line with the streamer’s policy of not disclosing viewership data.

Netflix’s limited release strategy in Italy with “Hand of God,” which clearly could have gone wider, doesn’t sit well with Domenico Dinoia, the head of Italy’s arthouse distributors org Fice.

“Either you limit yourself to the platform, or you should do a theatrical release as well as you can,”Dinoia stated. “It’s obvious that Netflix has no interest in using theatrical as the main viewing activity experience for its product; we all know this.”

Dinoia stated that “at a time when there is a great need to bring people back into movie theaters, a part of the audience for this film won’t get a chance to see it [on the big screen].”

He added that the Italian movie theatres that are not allowed to show the Sorrentino film are those in the provincials. “in the deep heart of Italy.”

Italy has in recent years become an interesting testing ground for the theatrical releases of Netflix titles, largely because the Venice Film Festival has been a frequent launching pad for the platform’s original films, including “Roma,” Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,”And more recently, besides “Hand of God,” Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,”This book was printed in approximately 100 copies and went out in Italian theaters November 17, 2017.

From the beginning, there was turbulence. In 2018, Occhipinti stepped down as chief of the country’s film distributors in the wake of controversy prompted by the simultaneous theatrical and Netflix release of Italian police-brutality drama “On My Skin”Following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Occhipinti notes that the issue of the theatrical window was the point of contention. Italy is more flexible around this issue than France.

“The French windowing system is very rigid and it’s the audience that is losing out,”He said.

Meanwhile, “The Hand of God”The film will be released theatrically in limited quantities around the globe starting December 1, 2012. South Korea, Belgium, Switzerland; Dec. 2 in Argentina, Brazil. Mexico. Australia. New Zealand. Germany.

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