Medusa sees busy season

'Unknown,' 'Napoleon,' 'Scoop' doing well at B.O.

ROME — Italy’s Medusa Cinema, which threw its weight behind the recently ended RomeFilmFest after being snubbed by Venice, has reason to be pleased.

Though Italo box office is soft due to a sunny autumn, Giuseppe Tornatore’s dark “The Unknown,” about a Ukrainian nanny with a prostitution-tainted past, opened at No. 3 last week , pulling in nearly $1 million, while Paolo Virzi’s comic historical piece “Napoleon (and Me),” after two weeks was ensconced in the No. 7 spot.

Another Medusa title, Woody Allen’s “Scoop,” which did not preem in Rome, is playing rather nicely, having bested “Miami Vice” with more than $4 million in four weeks. The Woodman’s latest is not expected to match “Match Point,” though, which grossed $11.4 million for Medusa, by far that pic’s top international take.

“Rome represents a new opportunity for our industry, so we chose to support it,” said Giampaolo Letta, topper at Medusa, which did not have an office at Venice for the first time. Letta hastens to add that he certainly hopes to be back on the Lido in 2007.

Meanwhile, Medusa, whose current market share is 9.2% — making it the second Italo theatrical distributor after RAI Cinema’s 01, which has a 10.2% share — has several strong upcoming titles, including Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” which bowed internationally in Rome, and Robert De Niro’s CIA thriller “The Good Shepherd,” for which De Niro sneak-peaked a dazzling 10-minute promo at the fest.

Among other upcoming releases, Letta has high hopes for Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year,” Gabriele Muccino’s Will Smith starrer “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Milos Forman’s “Goya’s Ghosts” and “Silk,” the Alessandro Baricco adaptation, helmed by Francois Girard, which has been submitted to Berlin, he says.

Titles percolating in Medusa’s production pipeline include Turkish-born Italo helmer Ferzan Ozpetek’s midlife-crisis drama “Saturno Contro” (Saturn Opposite); hot young helmer Saverio Costanzo’s “In Memory of Myself,” a drama about a novice Italo monk; and popular comic trio Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo’s “Anplagged” — the intentional misspelling is how Italo’s pronounce “Unplugged” — as well as new pics in early stages by Tornatore, Bernardo Bertolucci, Gabriele Muccino and Leonardo Pieraccioni.

Letta said positive buzz on “The Unknown,” which sold to seven territories in Rome, could help him find U.S. financing for Tornatore’s long-gestating dream project, the epic “Leningrad,” a reconstruction of the Nazi siege of the Russian revolution’s birthplace.

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