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CECCHI GORI UNREELS HEALTHY FILM SLATE

Italy’s leading film producer and distributor, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, last week unveiled a robust slate of 100-plus pics for the 1995-96 season, his second solo year since the demise of his Penta pact with Silvio Berlusconi.

But while the industry giant was in an expansive mood about his own activities in film and TV, he reserved some belittling epithets for his former bedfellow.

Despite the peak performance of many of his titles on Berlusconi’s Fininvest webs, Cecchi Gori insists that all sales of TV rights to that group have ceased.

“The idea of supplying more fuel to the bombardier that’s bombarding Italy doesn’t sit well with me,” he said at a press conference May 31. “I’m tired of giving my films to groups that are ruining Italy, that exploit the audience for cinema or sport to pursue their own particular personal goals, which are against the general interests of the country.”

Cecchi Gori confirmed that his most recent sales of broadcast rights have been to pubcaster RAI. But the producer is stockpiling 300 titles to be aired on his recently acquired Videomusic web and possibly on Telemontecarlo, which he is currently negotiating to buy.

The new-season lineup is the Cecchi Gori Group’s biggest ever, with the increased number of films ready for release or in preparation necessitating service deals with the Italo arms of two U.S. majors. Warner and Buena Vista will distribute about 20 CGG titles each, starting in the fall. The producer also hopes to involve Warner in a co-production of “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

Heading up the new slate are Michael Mann’s “Heat,” pairing Robert De Niro and Al Pacino; Oliver Stone’s “Nixon,” Sean Perm’s “The Crossing Guard,” and two Demi Moore starrers – “The Scarlet Letter” and “Gaslight Addiction.”

Some big guns

Also included are “Judge Dredd” with Sylvester Stallone, Alan Parker’s “Evita” starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, Adrian Lyne’s “Lolita,” Ridley Scott’s “White Squall,” Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls” and Robert Altman’s “Kansas City.”

Cecchi Gori also will release David Fincher’s “Seven” starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, which was originally planned as a Pentamerica production before that outfit folded and the project went to New Line. Cecchi Gori’s U.S. rep, Gianni Nunnari, gets exec producer credit on the pic.

Along with New Line, which supplied CGG with a hit in “The Mask” and looks to do the same this year with “Dumb and Dumber,” Cecchi Gori is angling to strengthen his relationships with other U.S. studios. The top of the list is Miramax, whose entire 10-film slate was snapped up by the Italo distrib at AFM this spring.

Cecchi Gori hopes the U.S. release via Miramax of “The Postman” and “Star Man,” the new feature from “Cinema Paradiso” Oscar-winner Giuspeppe Tornatore, will lead to further pickups of his local productions.

Putting his customary muscle behind Italian cinema, Cecchi Gori has a strong crop of national pics ready to bow in the fall. In addition to “Star Man,” the long-awaited “Pasolini: An Italian Crime” and the Michelangelo Antonioni-Wim Wenders collaboration, “Beyond the Clouds,” both look tipped for a Venice fest launch.

Set to follow are Bernardo Bertolucci’s return to an Italo setting, “Stealing Beauty,” with Jeremy Irons and Liv Tyler, and Gabriele Salvatores’ $10 million sci-fi road movie “Nirvana,” which Cecchi Gori describes as “a ‘Mediterraneo’ for the year 2000.”

New pix tapped

New features from top local helmers such as Gianni Amelio, Ricky Tognazzi, Carlo Mazzacurati and Paolo Virzi are also slated, along with pics from commercial money spinners Carlo Verdone and Simona Izzo.

The list is rounded out by some muscular Euro productions including Pedro Almodovar’s “The Flower of My Secret,” Vincente Aranda’s “La Pasion Turca,” Claude Sautet’s “Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud,” Sonke Wortmann’s “Der Bewegte Mann,” Josiane Balasko’s “Gazon Maudit” and Betrand Tavernier’s “D’Artagnan’s Daughter.”

Cecchi Gori stresses that past problems with overcrowding of his slate due to inferior titles taken on board as part of package deals will be eliminated by relegating pics of dubious theatrical value directly to his homevideo label.

In his capacity as a member of the Italian senate, the producer has drawn up and presented to Parliament a new law proposing heavy penalties against citizens purchasing pirated videocassettes as a means of clamping down on Italy’s alarming vid piracy industry.

“In Italy, we’ve reached a video-piracy quota that’s five times that of Brazil,” said Cecchi Gori.

TV inroads

In addition to beefing up the group’s nationwide exhibition activity via development of multiplexes, (CGG currently programs around 150 screens in Italy), inroads into television production are being planned.

First up is a series based on current B.O. smash “School,” which is also spawning a feature sequel. Also gestating is a golden-age-of-film series, “Cinema, Amore Mio.”

Cecchi Gori plans to launch the revamped Videomusic this fall. He hopes to extend the web’s current coverage of 70% of national territory to 90% by year’s end. The bid to add TMC to his holdings will be delayed until the outcome of Italy’s imminent TV referendum is clear.

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