Italian Drama ‘The King of Laughter’ Due on Digital and DVD Feb. 14

The Italian drama The King of Laughter will be released on digital and DVD Feb. 14 from Film Movement.

The film is set at the beginning of the 20th century in Belle Époque Naples, where theaters and the cinema were thriving and the great comic actor Eduardo Scarpetta was the box office king. Known in the Neapolitan theater for his cheeky alter egos, Scarpetta’s larger-than-life stage productions were matched only by his eccentric personal life. Composed of wives, partners, lovers, legitimate and illegitimate children (including a young Eduardo De Filippo, famed Neapolitan playwright), Scarpetta’s home situation resembled one of his comedies more than a traditional family. In 1904, at the height of his popularity, the comedian risked everything by staging a parody of the great Italian poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio. Booed and hissed from the stage by younger rivals, Scarpetta was sued for plagiarism, leading to the first ever copyright lawsuit in Italy. Despite the draining years of legal troubles and familial strife, Scarpetta fought not only for his craft but for his legacy as one of the great thespians of Italian theater.

The film was nominated for 26 international awards, including the 2021 Venice Golden Lion for Best Film, and captured 14, including the Best Actor Award for Toni Servillo at Venice and Best Costume Design at Italy’s 2022 David di Donatello Awards, as well as Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film at the 2021 Golden Ciak Awards.

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Bonuses include the short film La Smorfia directed by Emanuele Palamara. It follows Carmine, a popular Neapolitan singer, who is left disfigured and confined to a wheelchair after a tragic accident. He longs to return to the stage, but when his doting sister stands in the way he devises a treacherous plan.

 

Paramount+ Launches in Italy

The Paramount+ streaming service launches Sept. 15 in Italy with more than 8,000 hours of entertainment.

Paramount Global rolled out the blue carpet Sept. 14 hosting a star-studded event at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome to celebrate the launch. Following the event, the service revealed its content slate with myriad stars on hand to showcase the Italian stars Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni, Elodie, Greta Scarano and Carlo Verdone mingled among Hollywood stars Harrison Ford, Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren, Sylvester Stallone and Miles Teller, among others.

At launch, Paramount+ in Italy will offer a broad slate for the whole family, spanning new and exclusive Paramount+ originals, TV shows and movies across every genre, including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Showtime and the Smithsonian Channel.

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Global series that will become available on the platform in Italy include “The Offer,” based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s experiences of making The Godfather; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” which follows a new alien character who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution; and “Tulsa King,” with Sylvester Stallone playing the role of Dwight “The General” Manfredi just after he is released from a 25-year prison sentence and unceremoniously exiled by his boss to set up shop in Tulsa, Okla.

Paramount+ Italy will be the home of a selection of new films following their theatrical and home entertainment releases, including Top Gun: Maverick, which will arrive on the service in Italy later this year.

The service is also investing in local content and talent, with a line-up of Italian originals, such as the newly announced “Francesco il Cantico,” an immersive reading of one of the most iconic texts dedicated to love, hosted by Benigni; a new season of “Vita da Carlo,” which sees Italian comedian and actor Carlo Verdone as director and lead of this highly anticipated series around his life; and Ti Mangio il Cuore, a movie based on Carlo Bonini and Giuliano Foschini’s novel-investigation of the mafia in Foggia, and starring Elodie in her first acting role.

Other Italian content includes “Circeo,” “Miss Fallaci,” “Quattordici Giorni,” “Corpo Libero,” “Ex on the Beach” and “Are You the One?”

Animated series such as the newest instalments of Beavis and Butt-Head” and “South Park” will also get an Italian touch with local voice talent. The scripted slates will also include all previously announced scripted originals, including “BOSÉ,” a six-episode series that tells the story of the incredible life of Miguel Bosé, an international superstar that began his career in the late 1970s.

“Tonight, we are celebrating the debut of Paramount+, which seamlessly combines Hollywood with Italian storytelling and creativity. Italy has been a home to Paramount for many years and now we’re bringing the best Italian — and global — films and series together in one place, on Paramount+,” Tom Ryan, CEO of streaming for Paramount, said during the blue carpet presentation.

“We’re the only streaming service where you’ll see Sylvester Stallone, ‘SpongeBob,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘South Park’ and incredible Italian stars like Elodie and Verdone …  all in one place,” added Marco Nobili, EVP and international GM of Paramount+. “With over 100 years of storytelling experience from our renowned Hollywood studio to our international production hubs — Paramount knows how to make great entertainment for everyone.”

Paramount+ to Launch in Italy on Sept. 15

Paramount Global Aug. 10 announced that its branded subscription streaming service, Paramount+, is scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sept. 15, priced at 7.99€ per month. An annual subscription will be offered for €79.90.

Due to the partnership with Comcast-owned Sky, Sky Cinema subscribers in Italy will be able to access Paramount + for free.

Paramount+ original titles coming to Italy (with Italian captions) include “Tulsa King,” starring Sylvester Stallone as a New York mafia capo unceremoniously exiled by his boss to set up shop in Tulsa; The Offer,” a limited series with Miles Teller, Matthew Goode and Juno Temple based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s never-before-seen experiences of making The Godfather; “1883,” Taylor Sheridan’s highly anticipated “Yellowstone” prequel; and upcoming series “1923,” also from Sheridan, featuring Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford in the next installment of the “Yellowstone” origin story; and “HALO,” based on the Xbox franchise.

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“This launch, followed by Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France in the coming months, will bring Paramount+ to all major European markets by the end of the year,” Marco Nobili, EVP and International GM of Paramount+, said in a statement.

Paramount+ will offer locally sourced programs that will also debut in other countries where the streamer is present. The selection of available Italian titles will include CIRCEO, the series produced by Cattleya in collaboration with VIS, Paramount+ and RAI Fiction, which retraces the process following the terrible case of 1975; 14 DAYS, a Paramount+ original Italian production, written and directed by Ivan Cotroneo, which tells the story of a couple forced into two weeks of seclusion; the CORPO LIBERO series, a co-production by Indigo Film and Network Movie, in co-production with ZDFneo, in collaboration with Rai Fiction and Paramount+, in association with All3Media International Limited: the thriller based on the novel by Ilaria Bernardini and written with Chiara Barzini, Ludovica Rampoldi and Giordana Mari; and the previously announced productions TI MANGIO IL CUORE and MISS FALLACI.

In addition to new releases such us 2022’s Scream, Paramount+ will allow users to rewatch classics and familiar titles that will be available exclusively on the platform after their success in the cinemas. These include Grease, The Godfather, the “Star Trek” movie franchise, and “Transformers,” among others.

Paramount+ will also be available online in Italy at https://paramountplus.it/, on mobile devices and a wide range of connected TV devices via distribution through Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung and more.

Netflix to Pay $59 Million in Italian Tax Dispute

Netflix has reportedly agreed to pay $59 million to settle an Italian tax dispute regarding the streaming pioneer’s use of infrastructure in the European country.

Reuters, citing sources, said Netflix has agreed to pay taxes for the period from Oct. 2015 to 2019 — when Milan officials claim the service used servers and backend technology in the country to deliver content to about two subscribers. Netflix had claimed it didn’t have to pay local taxes since it didn’t have any physical presence in the country.

In a statement to Reuters, Netflix admitted no wrongdoing, saying, “We have maintained constant dialogue and cooperation with the Italian authorities and continue to believe that we have acted in full compliance with Italian and international rules.”

Netflix this month opened an Italian office that now reportedly employs about 40 people catering to about 5 million subscribers and local content production.

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Netflix Opens Italian Office

Netflix’s international charm offensive continues. The subscription streaming video behemoth has opened an Italian office in Rome, with plans to up local content production.

The move comes after the service reported a net loss of 200,000 subscribers globally in the first quarter, ended March 31. The streamer lost 300,000 subs across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That prompted co-CEO Reed Hastings to board the company jet and personally welcome the Italian press.

“Today we celebrate our new Italian home, our growing business in Italy, the creative community we are so honored to be part of, and all of the fantastic Italian stories on our upcoming slate,” Hasting told the Italian media. “The breadth and variety of our Italian slate perfectly represents our ambitions — new series, films, documentaries and unscripted shows from Italy’s most prestigious creatives and exciting new voices. Stories that are Made in Italy and watched by the world.”

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Hastings explained his longtime Italian connection began 15 years ago when he moved his family there for 12 months while he ran Netflix’s by-mail DVD rental business.

“I was so amazed to come visit here,” Hastings said. “At the end of that year we had so many great memories.”

Netflix original Italian content includes a pending series based on the classic novel Il Gattopardo; holiday series I Hate Christmas, an unnamed animated series, and a show about the biggest lottery scam in Italian history.

Netflix original Italian movies include Robbing Mussolini, the revenge film My Name is Vendetta, and romantic comedies Love & Gelato and Under the Amalfi Sun. Other content includes documentary series “Wanna” from Fremantle, race-walking doc “Running for the Truth: Alex Schwazer,” and reality series “Summer Job.”

Current Netflix Italian series include “Lidia Poet,” “Brigands,” “The Lying Life of Adults,” “Tutto Chiede Salvezza,” “Framed! A Sicilian Murder Mystery,” “SKAM Italia” and “Di4ries,” among others.

Fellini Classic ‘La Dolce Vita’ Headed to Blu-ray With New Intro by Martin Scorsese

Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic La Dolce Vita will be released on Blu-ray Feb. 8 by Paramount Home Entertainment with a new introduction by director Martin Scorsese, who shares his thoughts on the film and its impact on cinema.

Both a critique of the culture of stardom and a look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome’s rich, La Dolce Vita follows a notorious celebrity journalist over one crazy week. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée and Yvonne Furneaux.

The film was restored in 2011 by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in association with The Film Foundation, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia-Cineteca Nazionale, Pathé, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Mediaset-Medusa, Paramount Pictures and Cinecittà Luce.

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Pluto TV Set to Launch in Italy on Oct. 28

ViacomCBS has two goals: Expand market penetration and consumer awareness of the Paramount+ subscription streaming service, as well as ad-supported free streaming television platform Pluto TV.

The media giant Oct. 28 rolls out Pluto TV in Italy featuring 40 original channels, including movie channels Pluto TV Romantic Films, Pluto TV Cinema Italiano and Pluto TV Film Action; entertainment-focused Pluto TV Crime and Young and Fabulous; series-led channels like Pluto TV Series, The McLeod Sisters and Teen Series; comedy channels such as Scherzi e Risati, Pluto TV Film Comedy and FailArmy; kids and family collections like Super! Heroes and Super! SpongeBob; and thematic channels like 16 & Pregnant.

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The media giant earlier this year partnered with Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky on multiple projects, including Pluto TV. Sky Media will serve as Pluto’s Italian advertising sales partner.

The debut will mark Italy’s first operating FAST service, which precludes the 2022 debut of Paramount+ in the European country. Pluto currently has more than 50 million active monthly users across 25 countries.

“We’ve been able to align our priorities, which are to roll-out Paramount+ and Pluto TV all over the world to secure our leading position in the AVOD and SVOD landscape,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, said on a webcast.

The executive believes that the opportunity in streaming is “massive” and absolutely fundamental for ViacomCBS. Annecchino contends it is a priority to secure a winning streaming strategy worldwide over the next year. Ongoing launches of Paramount+ and Pluto TV afford ViacomCBS greater opportunities to distribute content with the potential to become global IP.

“The combination of all these assets will make ViacomCBS a unique offer internationally,” Annecchino said. “Content is becoming more and more global. We are basically creating an organization that will deliver more and more real benefits from the U.S. to the world.”

 

Pluto TV Launching Italian Service Oct. 28

ViacomCBS’s expansion of digital assets worldwide continues. The media giant has partnered with Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky on multiple projects, including the planned Oct. 28 debut of FAST platform Pluto TV. Sky Media will serve as Pluto’s Italian advertising sales partner.

The debut will mark Italy’s first operating FAST service, which precludes the 2022 debut of Paramount+ in the European country. Pluto TV currently has more than 50 million active monthly users across 25 countries.

“ViacomCBS is rapidly expanding its global streaming footprint, connecting consumers with a vast library of great content across free and pay platforms worldwide,” Olivier Jollet, SVP and GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement.

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Channels available at launch include Pluto TV Azione, Pluto TV Cinema Italiano, Pluto TV Drama and Pluto TV Real Life, in addition to content from myriad third parties including Lionsgate, Minerva, KidsMe, Banijay Rights and Cineflix Rights, among others.

“This further strengthens Sky Media’s portfolio in terms of digital platforms, audience and content,” said Evelyn Rothblum, EVP of advertising, partnerships and distribution at Sky Italy and Sky Deutschland.

FuboTV Acquires Italian Soccer Streaming Rights for Canada

Online TV sports streaming service FuboTV Aug. 19 announced it has acquired the exclusive streaming rights for Coppa Italia and Serie A professional soccer distributed in Canada.

ViacomCBS’s streaming platform Paramount+ holds the U.S. streaming rights to Serie A and Coppa Italia.

Fubo’s Coppa Italia agreement includes a minimum of 41 live matches per season from the annual Italian cup competition, plus the Supercoppa Italiana. All matches will stream exclusively in Canada on FuboTV. FuboTV’s coverage is in partnership with sports marketing agency S&T Sports Group.

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The online TV platform will also be the exclusive English language Canadian home of Italy’s Serie A soccer league. The agreement was brokered by Infront, the international media rights partner of Lega Serie A in Canada. Serie A consists of 380 matches annually with FuboTV’s coverage beginning Aug. 21.

“With Canadians cutting the cord at an increasing pace comparable to the U.S. market, according to a report by Boon Dog Professional Services, we see a tremendous growth opportunity,” David Gandler,  co-founder and CEO of New York-based FuboTV, said in a statement.

The agreements mark the latest moves by FuboTV to differentiate its sports-first programming with exclusive soccer rights. Earlier this year, FuboTV acquired the exclusive streaming rights to the Qatar World Cup 2022 Qualifying matches of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in the United States. The platform also has exclusive Canadian streaming rights for the Liga MX home matches of Club Deportivo Guadalajara S.A. de C.V. (Chivas), in addition to streaming international soccer leagues like French Ligue 1 locally through its content partners.

Luca

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney;
Animated;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence.
Voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Marco Barricelli, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sacha Baron Cohen.

With Luca, Pixar delivers a wonderfully realized rumination about growing up, exploring the joys of the world and finding friends who also might be just a little bit different.

The film follows the tradition of earlier Disney tales such as Splash and The Little Mermaid, but with a distinctly Italian flair. Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a young sea monster who yearns to learn about the wider world, but is limited to a life shepherding goatfish under the sea. One day, while looking through a number of human objects that fell from a boat, he encounters Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), an orphaned sea monster who teaches Luca that when they go onto land and dry out, their bodies become human.

They have fun with their misadventures on the lonely island where Alberto lives, dreaming of one day obtaining a Vespa so they can travel the world. But when Luca’s parents take notice of his time on land, they threaten to send him to live with his uncle in the ocean deep. So, Alberto convinces Luca to run away to the sleepy Italian fishing village nearby to hide out. There, they meet Giulia (Emma Berman), who recruits them to form a team for an upcoming race, hoping to defeat the bully Ercole.

But they also learn there is a bounty for killing sea monsters, which they are revealed to be whenever they get wet. In addition, Luca’s parents come ashore themselves to search him out, leading to a funny bit in which they assume every boy they encounter could be Luca because they don’t know what he looks like as a human.

Director Enrico Casarosa based much of the film on his boyhood in Genoa, Italy, using the concept of the sea monster as a metaphor for not quite fitting in.

The film is beautifully animated in typical Pixar fashion, and so evocative of its oceanside environment that viewers can virtually feel the sun on their face and the water at their feet.

The Blu-ray includes a compilations of storyboards for about 30 minutes of deleted sequences, included a couple of alternate openings. There are also three making-of featurettes running about 35 minutes total.

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