Pittaluga, Stefano

(1887-1931)
   Distributor, exhibitor, producer. Beginning in the period immediately prior to World War I as just one more entrepreneur jostling for a place in the sun of a booming Italian film industry, Pittaluga would go on to become the single most important figure in the development of the Italian cinema during the 1920s. Indeed, the very shape of the Italian film industry in the 1930s may have looked very different had the plans and projects carefully prepared by Pittaluga not been brought to an abrupt end by his untimely death in 1931.
   Pittaluga first emerged in the industry in 1914 as an enterprising young film distributor holding exclusive rights over the Piemonte region for the films of several major Italian companies (Celio, Cines, Milano Films, and Aquila) as well as the French Pathe and other foreign companies. At the same time, showing a keen awareness of the importance of controlling exhibition, he acquired a number of cinemas in Genova. By 1920 he had a chain of over 200 theaters throughout northern and central Italy. His firm remained outside the Unione Cinematografica Italiana (UCI) and, by a clever policy of distribution of foreign films, especially American, continued to flourish even as the fortunes of most of the members of the UCI declined. In 1924 as many of the other companies either severely reduced their production or ceased it altogether, Pittaluga bought up Fert, a small company that had remained independent of the UCI, and began to produce a closely calculated number of films, including the last series of popular films featuring Maciste (Maciste all'Inferno Maciste in Hell, 1926, Maciste e il nipote d'America Maciste and the Nephew from America, 1926, Maciste e lo sceicco Maciste and the Sheik, 1927), which, astutely, he had already presold abroad. In 1926, as the UCI was being liquidated, Pittaluga's company secured all of UCI's assets, including cinemas, distribution networks, and studios (including the Roman studios of the Cines), thus bringing under its control almost all that remained of the Italian film industry at that time. In 1927, with great foresight, he began to equip his theaters for sound and the Roman Cines studios with Photophone RCA sound recording equipment. The Pittaluga cinemas were consequently the first to screen The Jazz Singer in 1929, and the first Italian sound film, La canzone dell'amore (The Love Song, 1930), was made at the Rome Cines studios, which henceforth became the major center of film production in the country. By this stage, having achieved a significant degree of vertical integration, Pittaluga's company was beginning to approach the model of an American major. Also by this time, as the head of the industry in Italy, Pittaluga had begun to lobby the government for some real support for the industry, to which Mussolini assented and then effectively provided by means of a decree in 1930. Before the law was proclaimed in 1931, however, Pittaluga died, leaving a vacuum that would only begin to be filled several years later with the Fascist government's creation of a unified bureau for cinematography (Direzione Generale per la Cinematografia) under the headship of Luigi Freddi.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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