Italy's Lucca Comics Fest Closes With New Record for Attendance

From Robert Rodriguez's "Machete Kills"

The Tuscan event, which sees itself as a European Comic-Con, sold more than 200,000 tickets in five days.

LUCCA, Italy – The Lucca Comics & Games Festival closed its 2013 with a new record for ticket sales as it seeks to establish itself Europe’s answer to San Diego’s Comic-Con.

The five-day noncompetitive event closed with more than 200,000 tickets sold and an estimated 300,000 attendees in an event that temporarily overwhelmed the picturesque Tuscan city of Lucca, home to 85,000 citizens. A year ago, 170,000 tickets were sold.

The Italian premieres of Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World, Machete Kills from Robert Rodriguez, and Ender’s Game, the sci-fi thriller from Gavin Hood, were among the festival’s highlights.

BOX OFFICE: 'Thor: The Dark World' Opens to Huge $109.4 Million Overseas 

From the domestic productions screening at the festival, the premieres of parts of in-progress projects including Paolo Ruffini’s comedy Fuga di cervelli (Brain Flight) and La mafia uccide solo d’estate (The mafia only Kills in the Summer) from Cristiana Capotondi attracted attention from the local media.

Warner Bros. also brought an extended trailer for Godzilla, the big-budget thriller expected to be released next year.

Festival cinema section director Mario Pardini said this year’s festival was in the first in Lucca that attracted the attention of multiple U.S. majors as well as the largest Italian players in the market.

“We feel we are starting to make a name for ourselves worldwide,” Pardini said.  “It’s easier each time to attract bigger name films because distributors are starting to realize the way we can help them build momentum for an Italian or European launch.”

With sections that focus on music, animation, multimedia, popular culture, and games, as well as cinema, Luca Comics & Games is one of the few festivals worldwide that covers the same territory as Comic-Con, the standard setter for multi-genre festivals.

“We look at ourselves as a kind of Comic-Con with a European flavor,” Pardini said.

With ticket sales and attendance growing quickly from one year to the next, there is a concern among some residents that the event may be outgrowing its base in Lucca, a postcard-perfect Medieval town in western Tuscany. But Pardinisaid those concerns were overblown.

“It’s true it has an impact on the city and that festival goers dominate the streets for a while, but there are very few problems and there is still plenty of space to grow,” he said. “What we need is a big venue so we can attract bigger names for large events. But that’s something we are working on.”

Twitter: @EricJLyman