Italy 2013 in Review: Silvio Berlusconi, Pope Francis Take Center Stage

December 24, 2013

By Eric J. Lyman

Italy also attracted media and entertainment industry attention when James Gandolfini died in Rome and when comic Checco Zalone was crowned the country’s box office champ.

ROME – The apparent political demise of former prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi as a political force, the arrival of Pope Francis and the death of Sopranos star James Gandolfini in Rome en route to Sicily's Taormina Film Festival where among the biggest media and entertainment stories in Italy in 2013.

Other big media and entertainment developents drawing headlines included the first time a documentary won the top prize at the 71-year-old Venice Film Festival, the crowning of a new and unexpected box office champ in comic Checco Zalone and some unlikely moves from the cash-strapped Italian government, including the idea of running state broadcaster RAI out of the Ministry of Culture.

Also, the second Hunger Games film attracted mobs of young fans waiting for more than 36 hours for a spot along the red carpet at the Rome Film Festival, while the Miss Italia beauty pageant narrowly escaped disappearing for good.

PHOTOS: The Scene at the Venice International Film Festival 2013

Here is THR's closer look at the big media and entertainment industry stories of 2013 in Italy:

End of the line for Silvio Berlusconi?
Despite a particularly news-filled year in Italy, 2013 may go down as the year Silvio Berlusconi was brought to his knees. The 77-year-old billionaire founder of media and entertainment conglomerate Mediaset has been the dominant force in Italian politics for two decades, but the year saw him definitively convicted for the first time (for tax fraud and false accounting), ordered to serve a year of house arrest and stripped of his Senate seat.

Additionally, he faces charges of paying an underage girl — former exotic dancer Karima el-Mahroug, best known as “Ruby the Heartstealer” — for sex, abuse of power, bribery and wire taps, while Forza Italia, the political party he founded, has split into two factions. He is also like to be legally barred from politics.

It's not the first time, pundits predicted Berlusconi– who was also orderedto pay nearly $50 million a year in alimony and who became engaged to a woman nearly 50 years his junior, Francesca Pasquale –was on the rocks, but it is difficult to imagine him re-emerging with the political muscle he had in the past after a year of major setbacks.

PHOTOS: James Gandolfini Funeral: David Chase, Alec Baldwin Attend Service

Pope Francis, media darling
The Vatican made worldwide headlines in March when Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in more than 600 years to resign. However, that was nothing compared to the flood of attention lavished on his successor, Argentina's Francis. He became the first pope in the modern era not born in Europe.

Francis earned accolades, including being selected as Time Magazine's Person of the Year, for his humble style and open-minded …read more
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