Italy's Movie Attendance Dropped 7.9 Percent in 2011

11:18 AM PST 01/12/2012 by Eric Lyman

In 2010, Italian moviegoers purchased 110 million tickets; the following year, 101 million, a slip partly reflecting a sluggish economy.

ROME – Hurt by a slow summer season, fewer-than-usual Hollywood blockbusters, and a general economic malaise gripping the country, Italian cinema ticket sales fell 7.9 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year, cinema monitoring company Cinetel and industry association ANICA reported Thursday.

All told, 101.3 million tickets were sold in 2011, down from 110.1 million a year earlier, despite the fact that the number of films released -- 363 vs. 345 -- actually rose last year. Total ticket sales were €661.5 million ($840.1 million), down 10.1 percent compared to 2010. The declines represented the third consecutive year the Italian film market contracted.

Cinema attendance was strong at the start of the year, compared to the first two months of 2010, led by the performance of comedy Che Bella Giornata (What a Beautiful Day), which took in €43.5 million ($55.2 million) over the first seven weeks of the year to take honors as the Italian film with the highest domestic box office ever. But then attendance figures slumped through the summer before closing the year strongly, but not strongly enough to eclipse last year’s figures.

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There was one bright spot for Italian films, which saw their share of the overall box office rise to 37.5 percent compared to 31.9 percent a year ago. The rise was mostly at the expense of U.S.-made productions, which still commanded the lion’s share of the market at 46.7 percent, though that figure is far below last year’s 59.9 percent share.

Mediaset, the broadcast and film giant owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was the most successful distributor in Italy, with ticket sales of 26.1 million, good for 25.8 percent of the total. Mediaset, which produced Che Bella Giornata, finished ahead of the local subsidiaries of Warner Bros (17.4 million tickets; 17.1 percent) and Universal (13.8 million tickets; 13.6 percent).

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Che Bella Giornata was the year’s top grossing film, selling more than twice as many tickets as second place Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Immaturi (The Immature), a comedy about a group of students who must retake an exam 20 years after graduation, was third, followed by Qualunquemente (Whatsoeverly), another Italian comedy, in fourth.  The top grossing U.S. film in Italy last year was The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, which sold 2.3 million tickets and took in €15.7 million ($19.9 million), good for fifth place on the year-end list, just ahead of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean installment, in sixth.

Italian films took three of the top four slots and four of the top ten. U.S. films also filled four of the top ten sport, with U.K. productions taking the final two. The top ranking film not from one of those three countries was Roman Polanski’s Carnage, a French production, way down in 39th place.

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