Italy: Clooney pic is ‘Good Luck’ for Italian box office

Territory Reports

B.O. cume (through September): $431 million
Top title: “Madagascar” (UIP, $24.7 million)

“Babel” (RAI Cinema)
“Mary” (Mikado)
“Meg” (Eagle Pictures)
“Sketches of Frank Gehry” (BIM)
“Sorry, Haters” (Nexo)

“The Iron Crown”: English-language remake of Alessandro Blasetti’s classic 1941 sword-and-sandals fantasy is scripted by Gianni Romoli (“Facing Windows”). Epic, with high-profile ambition and an international cast, centers around a crown forged out of a nail from Christ’s cross. In development. (Sales: RAI Cinema)
“Ghost Son”: South-Africa-set, English-language supernatural thriller by Lamberto Bava (“Demons”), son and former a.d. of late horror maestro Mario Bava. Pic stars Laura Harring, John Hannah and Pete Postlethwaite. (Sales: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises)
“Passo a due” (Two-Step): Musical drama about an Albanian dancer trying to break into the Italian TV world. Pic, which is doing fairly well at the local B.O., is helmed by Andrea Barzini, and stars Kleidi Kadiu and Laura Chiatti. (Sales: RAI Trade)

ROME — Italian movie screens have seen a slew of indie pics flop lately, so for local distribs going to AFM, “caution” will be the operative word.

In addition, the general pic climate does not bode well. Box office returns are down some 15% in 2005, and TV sales have become more problematic, making for tough times, especially for the smaller players.

Still, an appetite remains for product with potential — as long as the price is right.

With the exception of “Million Dollar Baby” — which grossed more than $9.6 million via RAI Cinema’s 01 Distribution — English-language independents have failed to deliver. “Millions,” “Hostage,” “The Upside of Anger,” “Vanity Fair” and “Being Julia” are among some of the most prominent misfires. But even more high-profile fare such as “The Aviator” and “Kingdom of Heaven” underperformed.

A rare bright note recently has been George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Propelled by its Venice fest world preem, black-and-white pic outdid “Wedding Crashers.”

A lack of TV sales continues to dog distribs, mainly due to local drama increasingly ousting movies from primetime slots. Lone paybox Sky Italia has tight purse strings and, being a monopolist, can afford to stay stingy.

“We used to factor in about 50% of our returns from TV sales. Now, we can’t count on any of that anymore,” laments Ernesto Di Sarro, whose distrib Nexo has had “Monster” and “About Schmidt” among its releases.

A 10% rise in total homevid returns for the first half of the year is just not enough to pick up the slack, say execs.

“It’s not that I’m looking for cheap product. I’m looking for the same type of product as before, except I can only afford to pay much, much less for it,” Di Sarro says.

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