Arcadia: a family affair
The Fumagalli family, exhibitors with a passion
by Elisabetta Brunella

It was certainly not the first time that the Fumagalli family had invited to an inauguration colleagues, friends, suppliers and authorities and all those who had contributed towards making their cinemas - or better their dreams.

Yet this evening event at Stezzano - while it’s only too banal to say that it’s a good sign of a return to normality - highlights that perseverance and confidence in the future that are characteristics of Piero Fumagalli, founder of the Arcadia brand, and of his family.

I still remember the inauguration of the Arcadia in Melzo, in the Milan metropolitan area, in 1997: no-one had ever seen a complex like this in Italy. And not even abroad, where multiplexes and multi-screen cinemas had come into being far earlier than they did in Italy.

The pre-opening for colleagues - whilst the gardeners were still putting the finishing touches to the plants for the inauguration ceremony with the Minister of Cultural Affairs - had revealed a wealth of marvels.

The clearly visible projection booths (still with analogical projectors, including the rare but everlasting 70 MM), the lighting diffused by 3M optic fibre fitted at the base of the screens and armchair seats, the pear-wood floors, light years away from the ever-present wall-to-wall carpeting in the complexes belonging to Europe’s big chains, but above all the giant (technically “Premium Large Format”) Energia auditorium with its 30-metre-wide screen…

And if the Melzo Arcadia had projected us into a new phase of cinema-going in Italy, introducing a sort of innovative benchmark, the Stezzano complex - 24 years and a pandemic later - shows us what should be the focus of the cinemas that have not surrendered to the “film on the sofa”: the supreme quality of projection technology, the immersive sound and incomparable comfort.

All this, simultaneously with the automation of all systems (ticket-office, projection, lighting, heating etc.) and the reduction of power consumption, which is good for the environment and the exhibitor’s costs (once the investment for laser projectors, still a demanding cost, has been amortised).

Piero Fumagalli who, even in the excitement of the inaugural evening of the Arcadia’s new project, made time for personal chats with his guests, emphasises that the contract for the power supply at Stezzano (7 screens) foresees a decidedly lower consumption of kilowatts than his firstborn in Melzo (5 screens). And it promises a decisive cut to an electricity bill whose price comes as a shock to anyone from outside the business.

But alongside the passion for quality and the almost obsessive attention to new technologies that

ensure spectators enjoy an incomparable experience with respect to home viewing or watching on a portable device, the other winning factor for the Arcadia's benchmark is the one that is often considered a weakness: that of being a family enterprise.

Piero and his family, starting from his mother, whose moving participation in the opening ceremony of the site at Bellinzago Lombardo (Milan) I well remember, right down to his wife Ambrogia and daughters Paola and Laura. Who literally grew up in the cinema, where they did their homework and invented games in the shadows of the projectors, and now play leading roles in the management of the company.

Piero may not have passed on the baton to them yet, but he’s certainly passed on his passion. To sum up, a family affair.

Or perhaps a story of women ...*

*At this point we cannot fail to mention that it was Laura Fumagalli’s account that started the column "Women in Digital Cinema" in which, starting from 24 March 2006, MEDIA Salles turns the spotlight on the women who play an important role in the various sectors of the cinema that have most to do with the new technologies.