Italians loosen exhibition sector rules

Antitrust body is unveiling new policies

TAORMINA, Italy -- Italy's antitrust watchdog on Thursday ruled that the cinema exhibition sector's maintaining of barriers that block new entrants to the market is anti-competitive.

In a statement, the antitrust authority -- known officially as the Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato -- said that distributor policies that require cinema chains to show multiple prints of new films and limit the density of cinemas in urban areas -- make it more difficult for small operators to grow and for new operators to gain access to the market. It ordered the practices halted.

Although there is no timetable attached to the ruling, it will likely not go into full effect until the end of the year because it will require zoning laws to change. But the policies involving distributors' terms with cinema operators could go into effect sooner.

The news comes as one of the country's best-known cinema operators -- Vittorio Cecchi Gori -- had his 11-cinema chain closed, including the Cinema Adriano, Italy's most profitable cinema. The closures were related to Cecchi Gori's ongoing legal and financial woes.