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From Outsiders to Insiders? Strategies and Practices of American Film Distributors in Postwar Italy

  • PETER MISKELL (a1) and MARINA NICOLI (a2)

Abstract

This article examines the impact of structural changes in the postwar film industry on the activities and effectiveness of the foreign distribution subsidiaries of American firms. As these subsidiaries saw their regular supply of films from their in-house Hollywood studios decline, they sought out alternative sources of product content, often from local markets. Unable to rely on the traditional “ownership” advantages bestowed on them by their parent firms, these subsidiaries increasingly needed to integrate into local networks and forge closer relationships with local producers and exhibitors. Our focus is on Italy, one of the most important film markets for US companies in the 1960s. We collect data on the box office revenues and screen time allocated to every film released into the first-run cinema market and compare the effectiveness of American versus Italian distributors in maximizing the exposure of their most popular films. We explore the attempts by US firms to form partnerships with Italian distributors and producers. Finally, we examine available archival records to reveal the detailed activities of US distribution offices in Italy and their attempts to integrate into local business networks. We conclude that while US subsidiaries did not fully succeed in becoming “insiders” within the Italian film industry in this period, they did actively work toward such an objective.

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