Italian b.o. up 10% at midway point

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ROME -- Italy's overall boxoffice continued to outpace last year's at the midway point, while Italian films' share of the market dipped below a third for the first time this year, despite leading 2006 levels.

According to information received Friday from cinema monitoring company Cinetel, Italy's overall boxoffice for the first six months of the year was worth €324.5 million ($442.1 million), an increase of 10.2% compared with last year. Total ticket sales also increased, reaching €54.6 million ($74.4 million) over the first half of the year compared with €51.1 million over the same period a year earlier.

If the growth rate holds, this will be the third consecutive year the overall boxoffice expanded after two consecutive years of declines.

U.S. films continued to dominate the boxoffice, claiming three of the year's top four films and 57% of total boxoffice, down a slight 0.5% from a year ago. Italian films still showed well, with 31.8% of the total boxoffice for the first half of the year (counting co-productions). That's more than the 25.1% of the market claimed at the same point last year but down from 35.1% at the end of May and 45% at the end of the first quarter.

With the U.S. market share flat and the Italian share expanding, Cinetel said that the market share of homegrown films expanded by taking market share away from other European countries. After Italy, the next most successful countries at the Italian boxoffice were the U.K., with 5.3% of the overall market, followed by France and Germany, which each tallied less than 1.5% of the total. All three countries' films were off their pace from a year ago.

The top film of the year so far is Italian: Filmauro's comedy "Manuale d'Amore 2" (Love Manual 2), which raked in €19 million ($25.7 million). That placed it ahead of Hollywood offerings "Spider-Man 3" ($24.3 million), "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ($21.7 million) and "The Pursuit of Happyness" ($20.9 million), which was directed by popular Italian director Gabrielle Muccino.

The year-to-date top 10 includes three more Italian products, two from the U.S. and a lone U.K. entry, the James Bond thriller "Casino Royale," which took in €8 million ($10.8 million) to capture ninth place.
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