Local films score at Italian boxoffice

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ROME -- With Italy's share of the local boxoffice inching toward 50% in the first quarter, things have not looked this good for homegrown films in Italy since the 1970s.

According to media monitoring company Cinetel, Italian films accounted for 43% of the total boxoffice for the first three months of the year. That's 22% higher than last year (touted as a banner year at the time), 50% more than in 2005 and 59% better than in 2004. In March alone, the most successful month for Italian productions so far, local films were responsible for 47% of the total boxoffice.

Over the first 12 weeks of the year, an Italian film has topped the boxoffice six times. Only a dozen films managed to achieve that feat in the entirety of 2006.

"Usually, Italian films getting above 20% or 25% of the total boxoffice is considered strong," Cinetel director Roberto Chicchiero said. "These sustained levels haven't been seen since the 1970s."

For the period, Italian films took a bigger slice of what has proved to be a bigger overall market. Total ticket sales stood at 35 million for the first three months, compared with 29 million for the same period in 2006.

The most successful films thus far have been romantic comedies, aimed primarily at younger viewers. Among those titles were Luis Prieto's "Ho Voglio di Te" (I Want You), "Manuale d'Amore 2" (Love Manual 2) from Giovanni Veronesi and Fausto Brizzi's "Notte Prima Degli Esami -- Oggi" (Night Before Finals -- Today), all of which held the top spot for at least a week.

The U.S. action film "300" held the top spot during this past weekend, but it was followed closely by Italian-made "Il 7 e l'8" (The 7 and the 8) in second. Two more Italian films made the top five.

Although no one expects Italian films to continue taking such a large slice of the local boxoffice, Cinetel's Chicchiero said that several promising homegrown productions are on tap for the coming months, assuring at least some continued strength in the coming weeks.
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