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Rome: Finding movies in English (and what to know before you go)

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Welcome to the Cinema America. Photo by antmoose
Welcome to the Cinema America. Photo by antmoose

By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—

Tourists may not feel inclined to spend a night at the movies when visiting Rome. This is partially because of the language barrier (most films in Italy, especially big American blockbusters, are dubbed from English to Italian) and also because you’re probably too busy seeing the sights.

Seeing a film abroad can be a fun and educational experience (not to mention Cheapo-friendly). Even in Rome, finding a movie in English isn’t totally hopeless. Some movie theaters, after all, show movies in their original language. You just have to do some digging.

However, before heading to the theater, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. English-language films have delayed release dates

Because of all the work and time it takes to dub and subtitle films here, imported films come out later in Italy than in their original countries. Chances are the films that were showing back home when you booked your trip to Italy still haven’t come out yet. In fact, it sometimes takes up to a year for an American movie to be released in Italy.

There are exceptions, of course. Big blockbuster films such as the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series, “Avatar” and “Sex & the City” all came out simultaneously around the world (including in Italy).

2. Theaters have assigned seating

Unlike in America, you are assigned a seat when you purchase your movie ticket. That’s right, assigned seating. At first I thought this was annoying. But now I actually like knowing that I can arrive comfortably at the start of the movie rather than a half hour before to reserve my spot, as I know my seat has been spoken for.

Note: I’ve found that Italians are very particular about sitting in the seat that was given to them. Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to try and sneak into a “better” seat. If someone finds you in their place, they will most likely call for an employee to kick you out of it.

3. Some movie theaters have intermission

As with plays and musicals in “legit theater,” many movies in Italy stop for an intermission. While many might find this to be annoying, Italians seem to like the break. In fact, it seems that it gives them a chance to compare notes with their friends and family. In some theaters, a vendor comes around selling popcorn, ice cream and beverages during the break.

Searching for a movie in English

When searching for a movie in English, there are several useful Web sites that offer information on which movies are playing in English.

The most comprehensive site on movies in Rome is www.trovacinema.repubblica.it. When searching this site, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the movies with the letters “V.O.” listed directly beneath the film’s name. This stands for “versione originale,” and designates that the films haven’t been dubbed.

Another great Web site for tourists and expats is www.inromenow.com. This site offers updated movie listings every Thursday and is written entirely in English (making for a more user-friendly experience for non-Italian speakers).

When in doubt (or without access to the internet), pay a visit to any of these movie theaters for showings in English:

Nuovo Olimpia
Via in Lucina 16 (Off via del Corso)
Tel: 06 686 1068
Tickets: €7.50 (€5.50 for early shows Monday-Friday and all day Wednesday. Two screens.)
Web site

Greenwich
Via Bodoni 59 (Testaccio)
Tel: 06 5745825
€7, reduced €5. Three screens.
Web site

Nuovo Sacher
Largo Ascianghi 1 (Trastevere)
Tel: 06 581 8116
Web site

Alternatively, there’s the Casa del Cinema…

Located in the heart of the Villa Borghese Park (the “Central Park of Rome”) the La Casa del Cinema often hosts free screenings of movies in their original languages. Many of these are English-language independent films, but from time to time, blockbuster hits are also shown. Also inside you’ll find a bookstore, café, personal DVD stations, and a library stocked with hundreds of movies.

Casa del Cinema
Largo Marcello Mastroianni
tel 06 423601.
Web site

About the author

Nicole Arriaga

About the author: After her first trip to the Bel Paese in 1999, Nicole Arriaga knew she would one day return permanently in search of the good life. Before moving to Rome in 2003, Nicole worked as a TV producer and a writer in sunny Miami. She has written for Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The American and various other travel publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and as a programs coordinator for a study abroad organization in Rome.

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