Italy's Oscar Winner Draws Big TV Ratings; Rome to Honor Director

Honorary Rome citizen Paolo Sorrentino

The accolades for Italy's first Oscar winner in 15 years and director Paolo Sorrentino keep rolling in, even as the country's exhibitors express concern about the early TV screening.

ROME – Paolo Sorrentino, the director behind Italy's first Oscar-winning film in 15 years, will be made an honorary citizen of Rome, the latest honor of an accolade-filled week for the 43-year-old native of Naples.

Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), which won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, is an exploration of Rome's most decadent side through the eyes of once promising writer Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo, as he approaches old age.

Though some criticized the film for its unflattering portrayal of the Italian capital, Rome mayor Ignazio Marino and other officials have applauded Sorrentino for the beautiful images of the city he captured.

In fact, the Italian press noted Wednesday that a handful of travel agencies have begun offering "The Great Beauty tours," in which tourists can be shown the sites immortalized in the film.

On Twitter, the Italian-language hashtag #LaGrandeBellezza has been trending in Italy ever since the award was announced in the early hours of Monday morning local time.

Meanwhile, The Great Beauty earned a 36.1 percent audience share, the highest in recent memory for a non-sporting event or something not related to breaking news, and attracted 8.9 million viewers when it screened Tuesday night on Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset Channel 5.

Italian exhibitors usually ask for broadcasters to wait at least two years after a film's cinematic release before showing it on television, and they blasted Mediaset for scheduling the screening of The Great Beauty less than 10 months after it premiered on the silver screen.

ANEC, Italy's exhibitors association, expressed concern Wednesday that the success of The Great Beauty on TV could shorten the waiting period for some films: "This will hurt the industry in the long run," ANEC cautioned.

Mediaset subsidiary Medusa was one of the film's co-producers, and allies of former prime minister and Mediaset founder Berlusconi have said this week that the film would not have been made without Berlusconi's contributions. So far, there's been no comment from Sorrentino.

Twitter: @EricJLyman