Grosses total $93.5 mil to date

ROME — As preliminary figures are being compiled for the 2000-’01 Italian theatrical season that draws to a close June 30, local film industry morale is running high for the first time in many years, with a string of critical and commercial successes and a significant boost to Italian market share and box office for homegrown pics.

Grosses generated to date by Italian productions and co-productions involving Italy total $93.5 million, repping an increase of $35 million over last season’s final tally. Italian market share for the season, which began last August, has risen to a respectable 23% after the slump this time last year of 16%.

‘Happy’ numbers

Almost a third of the total is accounted for by the $28 million gross of smash Christmas comedy “Ask Me If I’m Happy.” But an unprecedented number of films covering a wide range of genres helped boost the profile of national product.

Figures calculated by national B.O. service Cinetel, which covers 74% of the market, show only two Italian films released in the 1999-2000 season passed the $5 million barrier signifying a major hit.

This year, that feat was achieved by four films in addition to “Happy.” These included not only mainstream holiday comedy “Bodyguards,” but also more upscale dramatic fare like Gabriele Muccino’s “The Last Kiss” ($12 million), Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Ignorant Fairies” ($6 million) and Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room” ($5.5 million).

Critical faves

Underlining the season’s rare symmetry between critical and commercial reception, the latter trio dominated nominations for the Italian film journalists’ annual Nastri d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) awards, due to be presented during the opening ceremony of the Taormina Film Festival June 29.

“Son’s Room” and “Ignorant Fairies” led the field with eight nominations each, followed by “Last Kiss” and Marco Tullio Giordana’s “The Hundred Steps,” a holdover from the previous season, with seven. All four pics were cited in principal categories including best film (the prize for which is awarded to the director) and best producer.

Other films that landed multiple nominations, announced June 7, included Ettore Scola’s “Unfair Competition,” Ermanno Olmi’s “The Profession of Arms,” Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malena” and Alex Infascelli’s “Almost Blue.”

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