Italian prod'n spending jumps

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ROME -- The number of films produced by Italian companies stayed steady at 90 between 2006 and 2007 but the total amount spent to make them surged by more than a fifth, the cinema, audiovisual and multimedia association ANICA reported Monday.

ANICA also reported that Silvio Berlsconi's Medusa kept its position as the largest film producer in the country, though Warner Bros.-Italia and Universal-Italy -- two distributors that recently signed content deals with Mediaset, Medusa's parent company -- closed the gap in second and third place, respectively. News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox-Italia, Italy's 01 Distribution, the Walt Disney Corp., Italian distributor Filmauro and Sony Pictures-Italia rounded out the eight distributors, with market shares above 5%.

U.S.-made films remained the most common in Italy in 2007, followed by domestic films. The U.K. was a distant third, followed by France.

Italian producers made a total of 90 films last year, ANICA reported, the same as in 2006 -- though with co-productions added in, the total reaches 121, five more than during the previous year. But the total budget for all domestic films was €312.4 million ($462.4 million), an increase of 21.4%.

Most of the increase in absolute spending terms came from the private sector, where cash spent on domestic films increased 16.5% to €249.4 million ($369.1 million). But government-sponsored funding surged 45.5% to €63.1 million ($93.2 million). ANICA said that the increase was due mostly to an increase in the value and number of the various film promotion funds set up by Italian regional and municipal governments.

Medusa distributed 75 films in 2007, raking in €106.9 million ($158.2 million), good for a 17.3% market share, about the same as in 2006. But the local unit of Warner Bros., which took 13.6% of the market after releasing 61 films that took in €84.2 million ($124.6 million), and Universal, which had a 13.1% share from 49 films that sold €80.9 million ($120.5 million), both gained market share at the expense of smaller distributors.

At the end of the year, 20th Century Fox released 45 films and held an 11% share of the market, followed by 01 Distribution (67 films, 9.9%), Walt Disney (48 films, 9.3%), Filmauro (13 films, 8.2%) and Sony (45 films, 6.4%).

In seventh place, Filmauro released fewer films than any company in the top 15, due mostly to a series of high-grossing comedies such as "Natale In Crocera" (Christmas Cruise) and "Manuale d'Amore 2" (Love Manual 2), the year's second- and third-highest-grossing films. Both films grossed more than €19 million ($28.1 million), just behind Universal's "Shrek the Third," which was the top film of 2007 here, taking in €20.2 million ($29.9 million).
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