Crossing Borders: The Circulation and Reception of Non-National European Films in Italy
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This article seeks to explain why some non-national European (NNE) films – i.e. films produced in one European country but released in another (e.g. a French film released in Italy) – are more successful at the Italian box office than others. Drawing on theories about the transnational circulation and reception of films and other media products, along with a range of qualitative and quantitative methods and sources, I compare the cultural and industrial characteristics of ‘successful’ NNE films (i.e. films that achieved 200,000 cinema admissions or more in Italy) with ‘unsuccessful’ NNE films released in the period 2005-15. My analysis reveals that few of the NNE films which succeeded at the Italian box office have characteristics we would expect to find in films that travel well across national borders. Indeed, most are low-budget independent arthouse or middlebrow films with stories that are dialogue-heavy, complex and culturally specific. Nevertheless, these films perform well not only because they appeal to audiences (particularly university graduates) who watch films for their cultural or artistic value, rather than purely for entertainment, but also because these successful arthouse and middlebrow NNE films have other key characteristics which ensure they receive widespread distribution and thus higher audiences. These characteristics include major awards, positive reviews and the involvement of international stars, critically-acclaimed directors, or pre-sold material (e.g. based on a bestselling book). Since most of the NNE films which succeeded at the Italian box office also performed well in other European countries, these findings can be applied to other national contexts. That said, there are some attributes of the NNE film market in Italy that are specific to the Italian context. For example, arthouse NNE films tend to perform better in Italy than countries like the UK, partly because such films are dubbed rather than subtitled, and partly because arthouse distributors and cinemas have a larger share of the theatrical market, though there are signs this is changing.
keywordsArthouse; distribution; European film; Italy; transnational.
Biografia dell'autoreDepartment of Film, University of Southampton, UK – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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