San Paolo Film was a Catholic production and distribution company, dependent upon the Society of Saint Paul’s religious congregation. Founded in 1938 with the mission of promoting the values of Catholicism through cinema, San Paolo Film became an important actor in the diffusion of film culture in Italy after the Second World War, thanks to its entrance in the small gauge distribution business. Its widespread network of parishes allowed in fact an impressive outreach of moving pictures distributed by San Paolo Film all over Italy. The selection of titles to be distributed and the promotion of discussions after the screenings outline a precise educational strategy on the part of San Paolo Film, revealing not only an apostolic mission, but especially a commitment to spread the availability of quality cinema outside traditional distribution networks.
Through the analysis of printed sources, including unpublished letters and documents conserved in the San Paolo Film archive, and film materials deposited with the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in the San Paolo Film collection, we will outline the role played by San Paolo Film in the circulation of rare titles and in their presentation to an audience otherwise not exposed to film culture.