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Court puts hex on Cecchi Gori plexes

Seven sites in and around Rome on chopping block

ROME — A Rome court has ordered Italian movie mogul Vittorio Cecchi Gori to sell off part of his exhibition chain to repay debts incurred by his Cecchi Gori Group with an unnamed bank.

Seven sites in and around Rome will go on the block in the Italian capital on Oct. 10, including cash cow the Adriano, a state-of-the-art 10-screener near the Vatican. Rome plexes Atlantic, Royal, Ambassade and Reale will also go.

The group has been awash in red ink ever since the mid-1990s, when it branched out from film into television and acquired the A.C. Fiorentina soccer club.

Cecchi Gori is no longer active in TV or sports, but the debts it incurred continue to grow.

Creditors are believed to include Merrill Lynch Capital Markets of Dublin, following a Merrill Lynch issue of Cecchi Gori bonds several years ago, which has been the object of a lengthy legal battle.

That legal battle is centered around E160 million ($193 million) Merrill Lynch has claimed it is owed by Cecchi Gori.

It is unclear, however, whether the auction, ordered by the court on Friday, pertains to action taken by Merrill Lynch or by another bank.

While no longer a dominant player in the Italian industry, Cecchi Gori — which owns the Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Cinema in Los Angeles — has produced four local pictures over the past few years, including this year’s “Il Ritorno del monnezza” (The Return of the Garbage Man), a remake of a local 1970s cult pic, which performed moderately well.

An English-language remake of Dino Risi’s Italo classic “Il sorpasso” is being developed in Los Angeles by Cecchi Gori Pictures and Gianni Nunnari’s Hollywood Gang Prods.

Calls to Cecchi Gori offices in Rome for comment were not returned Monday.

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