Tentpoles look to beat Italy’s seasonal doldrums

ROME — Aiming to end Italy’s summer box office blues, Hollywood majors and Italo distribs have agreed to release a rich offering of A-list U.S. pics between May and July.

A persistent dive in summer moviegoers separates release patterns in Italy from those in the rest of Europe and causes a glut of product during the rest of the year. The country is the only major territory where “Shrek 2” has yet to unspool; it will be a Christmas pic.

“After years of fruitless talk and real sacrifices, Italy will no longer have a summer problem,” vowed UIP Italy chief Richard Borg, who also heads Unidim, the country’s distributors org.

The breakthrough, which revolves around six U.S. titles going out in Italy day-and-date with the rest of Europe, was announced during an annual distributors and exhibitors confab.

The films are Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” via Medusa and Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” which will unspool in May; “Batman Begins” from Warner Bros. and UIP’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” in June; and Sony Pictures Releasing Intl.’s “The Longest Yard” and Fox sci-fier “Fantastic Four” in July.

The Rome confab also celebrated a 10% rise in Italian admissions for 2004 to date, with total ticket sales expected to reach 125 million by year’s end.

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