Homegrown Italian films continue rise

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Italian cinema owners survived a second-half slowdown to record the country's third consecutive year of rising admissions as well as an increase in the percentage of boxoffice accounted for by Italian films.

According to cinema monitoring company Cinetel, the total boxoffice for Italy this year (through Dec. 27) was worth €535.1 million ($706.3 million), an increase of 1.6% compared to 2005 and 2.9% higher than the same point in 2004.

Domestic films saw their share of total boxoffice rise slightly faster than the overall figure, taking 24.6% of the total draw, compared to 24.5% a year ago. Four of the year's top-10 grossing films were made in Italy this year, compared to three in 2005 and 2004.

But the increases had been on pace to be much more impressive. At mid-year, total ticket sales were worth €300.8 million ($397million), meaning 56.3% of tickets were sold in the first half of the year, even though the autumn is usually a strong time for films. On June 30, 25.1% of the boxoffice came from Italian films, slightly higher than for the year as a whole.

"At one point, it looked like the 2006 boxoffice would be far, far ahead of the 2005 totals, but the industry is going to have to be content with a small gain," Cinetel director Roberto Chichiero said.

Total boxoffice figures were hurt by the delayed releases of "Casino Royal" and "Borat," which already have opened in many territories but which will not appear in Italian cinemas until January.

Additionally, Italy's share of the total boxoffice was hurt when Giuseppe Tornatore's critically acclaimed "La Sconosciuta" (The Unknown), Paolo Sorrentino's Palm d'Or nominee "Amico di Famiglia" (Friend of the Family), and Emanuele Crialese's "Nuovomondo" (The Golden Door), Italy's entry for the foreign-language Oscar nomination, all did weaker than expected at the boxoffice.

The most successful film this year was "The Da Vinci Code," which raked in €228.7 million ($37.9 million), coming in ahead of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (€19.9 million; $26.3 million), and "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (€18.6 million; $24.6 million).

A pair of Filmauro-distributed Italian films were next: "Il Mio Miglior Nemico" (My Best Enemy), which earned €18.5 million ($24.5 million), and "Natale a New York" (Christmas in New York), which has taken €14.9 million ($19.7 million) through Dec. 27.

Rounding out the top 10 are Meryl Streep starrer "The Devil Wears Prada," Disney/Pixar offering "Cars," Italian hits "Notte Prima degli Esami" (The Night Before Finals) and "Ti Amo in Tuttle le Lingue del Mondo" (I Love You in Every Language), and Woody Allen's "Match Point."
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