How Coronavirus Is Affecting Entertainment In Italy

by Silvia Bizio March 23, 2020
Empty Colosseum, Rome, 2020

In Rome, the Colosseum monument along a deserted Via dei Fori Imperiali during Italy's lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19.

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

“We all have to stay at home, we have to do it for everyone's sake and welfare, let's do it all together, albeit separate,” says Italian actor Alessandro Gassman (star of  I bastardi di Pizzofalcone TV series) and son of legendary Italian actor Vittorio Gassman. “It's a difficult moment, a complicated one, strange days indeed we're living, and yet I'm convinced that we shall overcome it if we follow the rules. #IoRestoaCasa, (I’m staying home) is not only trending but the new motto of Italian society and of the entertainment industry as a whole in the era of Covid-19. The disease has already killed thousands of people in the country, currently second only to China on the impact of the virus. Italian film and TV productions, music and theater, have immediately complied with lockdown rules that the Italian government imposed on every “non-essential” business.  Italy is quarantined and all 60 million citizens are ordered to stay home. Pursuant to the decree signed on March 8th by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, first imposed on Northern Italy (heavily hit by the Covid) and later extended to the whole country, virtually the entire economy is shut down. Schools are closed, sports halted, every single film and TV production shut down, as well as theater, concerts and shows of any kind and size.

Says actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Il postino):  “I'd like to remind everybody to follow the rules without any exception or wavering. I know that especially young people might get bored to stay home all day long, but please let's collaborate in this. Let's treat our society as it was a movie set: collaborating, everyone, for one only and single goal. In this case the victory over the virus and the complete healing.”

All music tours and upcoming festivals have been canceled, including the very much awaited  Firenze Rocks with Guns n’ Roses set for June 12th, 2020. Everything has been postponed to a date to be determined. In the meantime, most Italian musicians, songwriters, and entertainers such as Jovanotti, Ligbue, Nek, Fiorello,  are offering “home concerts” for their fans, little musical snippets – often improvised -  posted on Instagram or Facebook that are going viral.  People have taken to playing concerts from their balcony at 6 pm (it has become a tradition in these last two weeks of lockdown), either playing an instrument, singing all together, flash-mob style, or publishing on YouTube an emotional version of  “Va Pensiero” taped by individual singers on their cellphones and then edited together.

Museums are closed. There's no single foreign tourist on the Italian soil these days, making for an eerie and surreal feeling of desolation and emptiness around popular destinations such as the Coliseum in Rome or Piazza San Marco in Venice. Their boards are scrambling to offer virtual tours via the Internet.

The Italian film industry is heavily hit. The Cannes Film Festival, for example, has already been postponed, and even the Irish Film Festa del Cinema di Roma, scheduled  March 25-29, has been postponed to a date tbd. All domestic productions have been put on stand-by, as have many international productions: including tentpoles like the new Mission: Impossible, set to be shot in several locations around Italy (mainly Venice and Rome) which was halted.  Cinecitta' Studios in Rome, the pulsating heart of the Italian film industry, have been closed for the time being. Many movies close to their release dates in theaters have seen their opening canceled, such as the new Carlo Verdone comedy Si vive una volta sola or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, a beloved and very popular actor in Italy. The filming of season 5 of the very popular TV show  Gomorrah (an international hit) was supposed to start shooting in Naples and Rome mid-March, but it has also been abruptly stopped, with no new starting date as of yet in sight.

To help the entertainment industry, its talent, workers and craftsmen, some initiatives have been established by the government in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, such as the “Cura Italia” (Cure Italy) s decree, signed on March 16th , which has allocated funds to help members of the AGIP (Associazione Generale Italiana dello Spettacolo – the Italian entertainment association). Another step aimed at momentarily supporting Italian artists is the  “Nuovo Imaie”, with a special fund of 5 million euros for the music and audio-visual sector.

Everybody tries, in true Italian spirit, to stay positive: “Of course this is changing the way we relate to each other, the telephone has become the only way to socialize, we reinvent ourselves,” says tenor Andrea Bocelli from his house in Tuscany. “But let’s not forget that humanity has always fought against situations even worse than this, and we don’t need to go back as far as the plague which Manzoni talks about in “I Promessi Sposi” ("The Betrothed"). All we have to do is think about more recent epidemics and we always came out of them with our heads high. I have had the chance over the last few days to sing several times the Italian national anthem - “Fratelli d’Italia” - which for me means a rebirth.. not just when you win the soccer championship, but also and mostly when there are difficult moments like this.”