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ROME — It’s official: Che bella giornata (What a Beautiful Day), an unlikely comedy from television funnyman Checco Zalone, has passed Roberto Benigni‘s three-time Oscar winning La vita e’ bella (Life is Beautiful) to set the all-time national earnings record for an Italian film.
According to the Italian press, Che bella giornata officially passed the previous record of €31.2 million ($41.8 million) in gross earnings some time during the matinee screenings on Sunday. As of Monday morning, the film’s earnings stood at €31.5 million ($42.2 million) and is likely to still grow for a while: the film is in only its second week of release.
Che bella giornata, distributed by Medusa Films, tells the story of a security guard who still lives at home, played by Zalone, who draws the job of guarding the Madonnina, the statue on the top of Milan’s Duomo Cathedral. He falls in love with a beautiful Arab woman, played by Nabira Akkari, who befriends him as part of a terror plot to bomb the Cathedral.
Earlier, the film bested James Cameron‘s Avatar to set the record for the biggest weekend opening ever, with €7 million ($9.4 million) in sales in its first three days.
On the news that his comedy has surpassed Benigni’s 1997 comedic drama, Zalone told the local press that while his film had earned more money than La vita e’ bella he had not bested Benigni.
“I apologize to maestro Benigni,” Zalone, normally a stand-up comic, is quoted as saying in L’Unita. “If I am recognized by Hollywood and win three Oscars, then maybe we can say I surpassed him. But not now.”
The sales figures for Che bella giornata are a good sign for Italian films so far this year, but the news has been less positive for Benigni’s La Vita e’ Bella and its place in the record books. In the coming days, the film is expected to drop to third on Italy’s all-time list when it is passed by Benvenuti al sud (Welcome to the South), a remake of Dany Boon‘s 2008 French hit Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks). But Benvenuti al sud has been in cinemas for more than 12 weeks, compared to two for Che bella giornata.
Italian distributors say they are hopeful Italian films can build on the record-setting start to the year. Due up soon, the third installment of the Manuale d’amore (Love Manual) franchise, starring Robert DeNiro in his first appearance in an Italian film, and This Must Be the Place, the English-language debut for Cannes jury winner Paolo Sorrentino, starring Sean Penn in the main role.
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