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‘Contender’ to TV

Dubbing delay puts pic out of Italo theaters

ROME — Oscar-nominated political drama “The Contender” will bypass Italian theatrical release and premiere on national television, despite being announced as a March opener through the local division of 20th Century Fox.

All Italian rights to the film were acquired from world sales agent TF1 Intl. at the start of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival last fall by Rizzoli Audiovisivi. The Rome-based company, headed by Angelo Rizzoli, is active in television drama production and has been preparing for a move into theatrical distribution.

Given the marketing cachet of Academy Award nominations for pic’s stars Joan Allen as best actress and Jeff Bridges as supporting actor, the decision to opt out of a theatrical window seems odd.

“A deal was in place with Rizzoli Audiovisivi for Fox to distribute this one title, which we felt could attract a significant amount of media attention with its political theme,” said Osvaldo De Santis, head of Fox’s Italian arm.

“But delays with the supply of contractual material meant we were unable to start Italian dubbing in time for the March release. Rather than go out in April, Rizzoli then decided to premiere the film as a special television event, perhaps splitting it into two parts.”

Rizzoli was unavailable for comment, but RAI Cinema confirmed its acquisition of free and pay TV rights to “The Contender,” which will bow on the national pubcaster’s webs at an unspecified date. Sources at Rizzoli Audiovisivi indicated that in the event of an Oscar win Sunday night, an April theatrical release may be renegotiated with another distrib.

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