Italian Cinema Revenue Plummets in June

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Italy's soccer team was not expected to do well at Euro 2012, and its six-game run to the final siphoned interest away from cinema.

ROME – Cinema ticket sales in Italy for June were less than half their level compared to the same month in 2011, the cinema monitoring company Cinetel reported Friday, with sales hurt drmatically by the country’s weak economy as well as competition from Italy’s unexpected run through the European soccer championships.

Cinetel reported that ticket sales in June were worth €16.9 million ($21.5 million), a stunning 53.1 percent lower than in the year ago period, while attendance fell by nearly as much, with 2.7 million tickets sold compared to 5.5 million sold in June 2011, a decrease of 50.9 percent.

While the weak economy and a relative lack of blockbuster films have been a drag on cinema attendance all year, the soccer championship -- which led to record viewership levels for state broadcaster RAI -- was the final straw in the weak cinema attendance. Italy was not considered one of the favorites going into the tournament, but the team made it all the way to the final before losing badly to Spain, 4-0. The run siphoned attention away from cinemas.

In May, sales were down 17 percent lower year-on-year due in part to a devistating earthquake in the region of Emilia Romagna that forced the temporary closure of many cinemas there. 

With the weak results from May and June, revenue from ticket sales is now down 9.78 percent over the first half of the year despite a strong start to the year in January and February, with the number of tickets sold 7.02 percent lower than over the first half of last year.

The summer is traditionally the weak season for Italian films, with ticket sales usually slumping as Italians spend their free time at the seaside or in the mountains.

As is par for the course, no local Italian productions were among the ten highest grossing films in Italy for June. Seven of the top ten spots went to U.S.-made films, led by Barry Sonnenfeld-directed Men in Black III, which took in €2.7 million ($3.4 million), or around 16 percent of the total box office for the month. Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator, which earned €1.8 million ($2.3 million), and the Dr. Suess-based animated film The Lorax, which took in €1.7 million ($2.2 million) were the only other films to grab more than a 10 percent market share.

A year ago, U.S. films represented nine of ten spots in the top ten for June, led by Disney’Pixar’s Cars 2. In that month, the top four films all earned more than Men in Black III did this time around.

But for the year as a whole so far, the top film is still domestic comedy Benvenuti al Nord (Welcome to the North) from Luca Miniero, which earned €27.2 million ($34.5 million) during a run early in the year. It easily outdistanced Disney’s The Avengers, which earned €17.9 million ($22.7 million) in the number two spot, and Intouchables (The Intouchables), the French comedic drama from Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano that set box office records in its home country, which is third with sales worth €14.7 million ($18.7 million). Two Italian comedies rounded out the top five.

Overall, Italy’s share of the overall box office over the first half of the year is 31.8 percent, better than 30.1 percent a year ago, though in overall terms the market share is only worth half as much as it was in the first six months of 2011.