Italo B.O. dips despite screen spike

Country's admissions stale. rest of Europe also falls

ROME — A proliferation of movie screens failed to fire up Italian admissions in 2003, tallying 74,376,190 tickets sold between January and November, a slight drop compared with the same frame last year.

The good news, according to Italo exhib org chief Walter Vacchino, is that while admissions took a dive in all other major Euro territories, “Italy largely held on to its moviegoers.”

But the Italian market remains severely underdeveloped vs. Spain, Germany, France and the U.K.

Total B.O. during the 11-month period was E443,590,871 ($534,667,966), up 1.8% from last year due to price hikes. During the same period the number of screens grew almost 9% to 2,496. Multiplexes account for about half of the country’s screens.

Figures were released during an annual exhibitor confab in the southern seaside resort of Sorrento.

“We are in transitional period,” said UIP Italy chief Richard Borg, who is also prexy of the country’s distrib org. “But the indicators are positive, considering the negative economic climate and the lack of really strong product.”

The U.S. share of the Italian market in 2003 grew about 5% to 65%, with “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” each earning well above $24 million.

Buena Vista Intl. was Italy’s top distrib with a 15% market share.

It notched up boffo results from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which pulled in $25 million, and “Bruce Almighty,” $17.5 million, according to national box office compiler Cinetel, which monitors 70% of screens.

“We are expecting to pull in about $121 million by year’s end,” said BVI’s Italian topper, Paul Zonderland.

The 2003 domestic share of the Italo is 19%, on par with last year. Top local hits were Christmas laffers “Christmas on the Nile” and “The Legend of Al, John and Jack,” which scored more than $24 million.

Two more weighty films, Ferzan Ozpetek’s tale of repressed romance “Facing Windows” and Gabriele Muccino’s portrait of a dysfunctional family “Remember Me” pulled in more than $12 million each. Carlo Verdone’s social comedy “It Can’t Be All Our Fault” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” weighed in above $6 million.

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