Italy 2012 Cinema Attendance Down 9.9 Percent

8:43 AM PST 01/15/2013 by Eric J. Lyman
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was Italy's No. 2 film in 2012

Most of the drop can be attributed to a weak performance by Italian-made productions, which sold 13.9 million fewer tickets than in 2011.

ROME – Attendance at Italian cinemas shrunk 9.9 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, its second consecutive annual decline, according to information released Tuesday by a group of monitoring companies and organizations.

In absolute numbers, there were 91.3 million movie tickets sold in Italy last year, compared to 101.3 million a year earlier. Most of the drop can be attributed to a weaker performance by domestic productions, which, counting co-productions, sold 24.2 million tickets for the year, compared to 38.1 million in 2011 -- a decrease of 13.9 million between 2011 and 2012, larger than the overall fall for the sector.

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“All of us here are worried about the lower movie ticket sales figures, but if we can make interest in our national productions grow our worries will be gone,” said Carlo Bernaschi, president of ANEM, the National Association of Multiplex Operators, one of the organizations that presented the statistics in a press briefing.

Richard Borg, the head of Universal Pictures Italy and the president of ANICA, the Italian audiovisual association, another of the organizations, agreed.

“Foreign productions, American productions, usually remain more or less stable in terms of ticket sales,” Borg said. “It is the domestic productions that make the overall sector grow.”

The last two years bear that out: U.S. productions sold 46.7 million tickets in Italy last year, down only slightly from 47.4 million a year earlier. But combined with the fall to 24.2 million from 38.1 million for Italian productions and co-productions, the U.S. market share jumped to 51.2 percent compared to 46.8 percent in 2011, while Italy’s fell to 26.5 percent compared to 37.6 percent over the same period.

U.K. films were 11.1 percent of the market, and French films were 6.0 percent, both up compared to 2011 on the back of strong performances from specific films: The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall (the year’s sixth and eighth highest grossing films in Italy last year, respectively) for the U.K., and Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s Intouchables (The Intouchables) (the fourth highest grossing film in Italy) for France.

Revenue from the sector in 2012 was €608.9 million ($803.7 million) in 2012, down 8.0 percent compared to the previous year. The number fell a little less than the number of tickets sold because of an increase in screenings for 3D films, which generally have higher ticket prices.

Last year was the second consecutive year ticket cinema sales in Italy fell by about 10 million tickets. In 2010, a total of 110.1 million tickets were sold.

“It should be a cause for concern for all of us that ticket sales fell by nearly 20 million over two years,” Bernaschi said.

There were some reasons for optimism, however. Officials said that all of the decline compared to 2011 was recorded over the first seven months of the year, especially over the summer months when many Italians stayed home to watch the Olympics and the European Cup soccer championship. To wit: revenue compared to the same month the year before in May, June and July fell 17.6 percent, 52.9 percent and 42.4 percent, respectively. But sales were much higher than in 2011 in August and September, and over the last five months of the year, sales were actually 4 percent higher than over the comparable period in 2011.

Despite the relatively weak performance from Italian films, the box office champ was a domestic production for the second consecutive year: Benvenuti al Nord (Welcome to the North), a comedy about southern Italians who move to Milan, directed by Luca Miniero. The film earned €27.2 million ($35.9 million). In 2011, the top grossing film in Italy was Gennaro Nunziante’s comedy Che Bella Giornata (What a Beautiful Day).

But after Benvenuti al Nord, the next seven films on the 2012 year-end list were all foreign productions: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was No. 2, with sales of €21.9 million ($28.9 million), followed by The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Intouchables, Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, and Skyfall, before the next appearance by an Italian film, another comedy, Immaturi – Il viaggio (The Immature – The Voyage), which took in €11.8 million ($15.6 million).

Warner Bros-Italia, which distributed The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, plus The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Amazing Spiderman, was the most successful distributor in Italy in 2012, selling a total of 19.1 million tickets and earning €134.5 million ($177.5 million). The company edged Medusa, last year’s top company, which sold 17.4 million tickets and earned €109.7 ($144.8 million). Medusa is the cinema production and distribution wing of Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

Universal-Italia, 01 Distribution and 20th Century Fox-Italian rounded out the top five distributors in the country, as the only other three companies to sell at least five million tickets.

The information was gathered and presented by ANEM, ANICA, cinema monitoring company Cinetel, and ANEC, the cinema exhibitors association.

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