Italian box office skids in 1st quarter

Ticket sales down 7% since last year

The Italian box office was down 7% to E189 million ($301 million) in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2007, which was a banner year. Admissions also dropped 7% to 32,000 tickets sold, according to local compiler Cinetel.

Will Smith starrer “I Am Legend” was the No. 1 movie with a $22 million take. But local pics, which had fueled the earlier uptick, continue to go strong, with six titles among the top 10.

Teen romancer “Scusa se ti chiamo amore” (Sorry If I Call You Love) grossed $20.1 million, putting it in second place by a whisker over comic Carlo Verdone’s “Grande, grosso e … Verdone” (“Big, Bad and … Verdone), which pulled $20 million.

Hollywood pics favored so far this year by Italo auds are “American Gangster,” which grossed $16 million; “No Country for Old Men,” which pulled $9 million; and “Into the Wild,” which scored $8 million.

Despite an economic downturn, Italo exhibs are upbeat about the summer season, historically a sore spot in Italy, where summer sun tends to kill moviegoing. To drive summer attendance, Warner Bros. will release its Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight” on July 23, while local distrib Medusa is outing star-studded local laffer “Un estate al mare” in June.

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