Italian auds snub local fare

With half a million fewer movie tickets sold so far this season, homegrown pics have taken a beating in the Italo marketplace. The fall’s only survivor up to now is Oscar-winner Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Star Man,” which has earned a respectable $2.2 million in the key cities since its Sept. 22 release.

The 1994-95 season was helped considerably by the runaway hit status of the late Massimo Troisi’s swan song “The Postman” and Roberto Benigni’s “The Monster.” And while other quality titles such as Gianni Amelio’s “Lamerica” and Carlo Mazzacurati’s “The Bull” may have performed below expectations, they provided a significant contribution to the profile of Italo pics on the local market.

Despite strong critical support and considerable media attention, “Pasolini: An Italian Crime,” Marco Tullio Giordana’s dramatic inquest into the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini, obtained only moderate success, perhaps underlining the Italo public’s current disdain for downbeat fare.

Similarly, Ettore Scola’s melancholy whodunit, “The Story of a Poor Young Man,” starring national icon Alberto Sordi, met with death at the box office.

Pappi Corsicato’s “Black Holes” opened recently, showing a glimmer of promise, as does “The Uncle From Brooklyn,” Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco’s controversial look at Palermo as an end-of-the-millennium wasteland. But neither of these pics appears strong enough to make much of a change in the fortunes of this season’s local lineup.

Able-bodied backup may be on the way, however. Local exhibs have high hopes for a trio of key titles due out in the next month. These are debuting director Mimmo Calopresti’s “The Second Time,” produced by and starring Nanni Moretti, Tuscan actor-director Alessandro Benvenuti’s bittersweet comedy “Ivo il Tardivo” and powerhouse commercial duo Carlo and Enrico Vanzina’s ‘ Io No Spik Inglish, ” toplining popular comic veteran Paolo Villaggio.

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