A new state-of the-art movie theatre called Cinema Troisi is set to open in a Fascist-era building in central Rome on September 30, an event rife with symbolic significance.
The projector is latest generation 4K; the sound Dolby 7.1 surround; the bar/bistro will serve gourmet food; and the venue’s plush 300 seats are the same shade of maroon as T-shirts worn by members of the collective of activists and film buffs known as “the Cinema America kids” who are running it. In 2019 they were attacked by neo-fascists, prompting an outpour of support from, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, Alfonso Cuarón, Keanu Reeves, Guillermo del Toro, and Spike Lee.
In 2012 the kids occupied the Cinema America movie theater in Rome’s trendy Trastevere hood that developers wanted to demolish and turn into a parking lot and an apartment block. They were evicted by police in 2014 and subsequently started running outdoor summer arenas in Trastevere’s Piazza San Cosimato and two other spots, screening vintage or second and third-run movies for free — on which they pay a rental fee — to usually packed crowds.
Now the Cinema America kids have grown up. They’ve spent €2.5 million ($3 million) to meticulously restore and refurbish Cinema Troisi – named after late great Italian multi-hyphenate Massimo Troisi (Il Postino) – obtaining the money from a combination of national and local government grants and sponsors, and also putting up property owned by family members as collateral for a loan. They got a ten-year lease on the city-owned building by winning a public tender.
“It will be a first-run cinema with a multi-programming schedule showing four different films a day, including thematic retros, presentations, and children’s laboratories” says Valerio Carocci, the collective’s president. Cinema Troisi will play “everything from ‘Star Wars’ to Agnes Varda,” he adds. Carocci and his team attended the pre-COVID era Europa Cinemas Network Conference of exhibitors and distributors in Lisbon and are now in contact with movie theater operators all over Europe.
Another aspect of Cinema Troisi that makes Carocci particularly proud is a study room for film students with free wi-fi that will be open 24/24 seven days a week. The study space is in a former boiler room adjacent to the building’s rooftop that has also been fixed up and turned into a terrace for outdoor events.
Recent visitors to the Cinema Troisi, prior to its September launch, include Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini and Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, another indication of the fact the kids have grown up and become major operators. Which angers the neo fascist group, known as CasaPound who had attacked them and last week tried to hang a large protest banner in front of the cinema claiming that the “kids” are on these politicians’ “payroll.”
Meanwhile, international support continues to pour in. Carocci is almost fetishistic about a letter he got recently from Jim Jarmusch (see below) saluting the upcoming Cinema Troisi re-opening.
One auteur who, ironically, may not be too pleased about Cinema Troisi re-opening is Italy’s venerable Nanni Moretti, whose latest film “Three Floors” will play in Cannes and who runs the almost adjacent Nuovo Sacher movie theatre, a longtime temple for quality films in the Italian capital.
“We’ve reached out to Nanni, who has been [our guest] at Cinema America and Piazza San Cosimato,” says Carocci who says he wrote Moretti to talk to him about common programming strategies. So far Moretti hasn’t responded.
Which raises the crucial question of the challenge that opening a new movie theater reps these days, no matter how nice it is.
Carocci is confident that once Italians are vaccinated there will be a return to cinemagoing and that the classy venue with a rooftop terrace and perennially open study room will help “reconfigure the relationship people have with cinemagoing.”
“We think the work we’ve done in the past six years with our open-air screenings has re-educated the public,” he says, adding that he is counting on the fact that the “more than 420,000 people who’ve come to our Cinema in Piazza screenings represent an audience base that is ready to come to Cinema Troisi.” “This is our strength,” he adds. “This is what gives us hope that we will be able to sell tickets here.”