Pic reps first time an Italo debut has secured top spot

Tyro Italo helmer Fausto Brizzi’s homework for “Notte prima degli esami” (The Night Before Finals) is paying off at home, where the snappy comedy is the surprise B.O. phenom, outperforming “Casanova,” “Syriana” and “Hostel.”

High school tale mixing educational hitches and romantic misadventures during Italy’s opulent ’80s is ruling the roost for its second weekend, the first time an Italo debut feature has secured the top B.O. spot.

“Night,” which has no name stars, scored E1.6 million ($1.9 million) on 280 screens over the weekend, tallying a stellar $6,800 per-screen average and besting its perf the previous weekend, when it opened at No. 1.

It now has totaled $4 million in grosses, twice the take for Buena Vista’s “Casanova” during the same period, according to national box office compiler Cinetel.

Brizzi’s screenwriter credits include several installments of a lucrative local Christmas franchise, including “Merry Christmas,” “Christmas in Love” and “Christmas in Miami.”

“Night” is co-produced by Fulvio Lucisano’s Italian Intl. Film (IIF) and RAI Cinema, which is distribbing via its 01 distribution arm.

“The results are more than double what we hoped for in our most wildly optimistic fantasies, and this is just the start,” said IIF’s Federica Lucisano.

“Night” is finding fans across the demographic spectrum, said Lucisano, adding that besides high school finals angst and adolescent love pains, pic also rides a wave of nostalgia for Italy’s “pre-cell phone” days.

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