Venice Opens With Rallying Cry to Protect Movie Theaters Against Streaming Onslaught

The 77th Venice Film Festival opened in earnest Wednesday evening with a moving ceremony that served as a passionate rallying cry in defense of the collective moviegoing experience in the face of a perceived threat posed by streaming giants.

The opening film was Italian director Daniele Luchetti’s marriage drama “The Ties,” which was generally well received. But the ties that took center stage just prior to the screening were those between film festivals and movie theaters around the world.

During the ceremony, the directors of seven top European festivals, including Cannes, Berlin and Locarno, took the stage to read a symbolic declaration in support of the big screen.

“Today, movie theaters are opening their doors again, though, like festivals, with a degree of uncertainty and anxiety,” the joint statement said. “But they are also doing so with hope and conviction, because they know that now, more than ever before, no one can live without cinema.”

“No one can live without films seen in a movie theatre, on a big screen, with an audience, with all the chatter and the silence.”

“We wish to firmly repeat this tonight: we must take care of our movie theatres. And all together, they and we, the theater and the festivals, commit to taking care of the films, the artists, the professionals, the critics, of all those who bring cinema into existence,” the statement added.

When Venice jury president Cate Blanchett took the stage earlier in the evening, she, too, zeroed in on the perceived threat of streamers — as Blanchett had also done during a press conference earlier in the day — by noting that although many have been “sustained” by the SVODs, “there is a vital component that’s been missing. And that’s here tonight: it’s strangers gathered in the dark in anticipation of a collective experience,” she said.

Tilda Swinton echoed those words after receiving a Golden Lion for career achievement when she said that “to be in a room with living creatures and a big screen,” and to see a film in Venice, is “pure joy.”

The ceremony, which officially opened the first major film event after the coronavirus crisis, kicked off with a moving tribute to the late great Ennio Morricone, who died in July. The nine-piece Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta orchestra, which the composer founded, played “Deborah’s Theme” from Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America,” conducted by his son Andrea Morricone, prompting a standing ovation.

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