Articles Domentari

Italy docs increasingly in growth for an 8M Euros theatrical market

by Marco Spagnoli | 27.03.2020

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The increasingly vaster production of documentaries, in 2019 estimated in nearly 600 titles of different formats and the most disparate consumption, can find its reason in the evolution of the traditional market and in the new production possibilities offered by the digital universe and a series of local funding.

If once traditionally the training field for new filmmakers in Italy was the realization of short films, today it’s the making of reality movies. This isn’t only due to a change in direction of the country’s production standards that barely manages through extreme difficulty and modest numbers to produce and distribute short films; but also and above all for the cultural context that in the last ten years has created formats and reality shows that in some way have managed to make the audience accept a complex and open narration without the use of professional actors.

An increase in the digital terrestrial and satellite channels offer, in addition to the landing in Italy of major international players of the documentary universe (Sky Arte, NatGeo, A&E networks), has led to a significant evolution of the reality film market, referring to a macro documentary genre that can be considered a container of the most varied products possible, linked to many different sub-genres. Thanks to the completion in Italy of the digital theater roll-out, Film Commissions funding, and the success of the distribution of these titles as marketing events, this offer has allowed the exhibition market to benefit from the public’s interest in documentaries, fostered and cultivated by channels like Rai Storia, or OTT platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon.

The qualitative and quantitative growth of the product can also be presumed by the number of titles distributed theatrically: in a survey developed by Cinetel for Mia Market-Mia Doc, 272 Italian and foreign titles were distributed in our country in 2017 for a total box office revenue of 5,165,070 Euros with 693,738 viewers. In 2018, however, the documentaries counted by Cinetel were 286 for a revenue of 8,614,655 Euros and 1,122,018 viewers; and in 2019, the number of titles has increased to 313, among which the sensational success of Chiara Ferragni-Unposted that topped 1,600,000 Euros at the box office for about 160,000 spectators, reaching a total box office revenue of 8,574,458 Euros for 1,097,405 viewers.

The numbers are certainly interesting and made even more important by the fact that in Italy there is no real distribution of documentaries at a national level and, above all, there are still no specific resources for the promotion of documentaries with the general audience, or in universities and schools of all types and levels.

This rapidly evolving landscape in the first months of 2020 recorded extremely significant changes also in the production market: above all, of course, the long-awaited creation of a doc division in Rai called Rai Doc led by journalist Duilio Giammaria. At the same time, there have also been noteworthy appointments such as that of Bologna Biografilm Fest founder Andrea Romeo as head of the doc production division at a consolidated company such as Palomar, and Elisabetta Savi as head of Fandango Doc productions.

All signs of the vitality of an Italian market that’s facing an increasingly complex, but also stimulating, international challenge.