Berlusconi's Cinema commands 15% of Italy market

ROME — In May, Silvio Berlusconi’s Medusa Cinema became Italy’s largest exhibitor by acquiring the country’s Warner Village Cinemas loop.

A month later, the expanded Medusa circuit, which with 250 screens commands 15% of the Italian market, started clashing with the Hollywood majors.

“They were demanding extremely low rental fees,” says Sony Pictures Releasing Italia topper Paulo Simoes, “so we did not give them ‘Terminator: Salvation.’ ”

Since then, Medusa plexes have not carried Sony’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” or Universal’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Nor will Sony’s upcoming Italo outings of “Julie and Julia” and Michael Jackson concert movie “This Is It” be playing on Medusa screens.

The bone of contention has since escalated beyond just rental fees, with Medusa demanding the majors, and other distribs, pay extra in order for trailers and advertising space for posters, cardboard cutouts and other promo materials to be displayed in its theaters.

“They have 15% of the market, not 80%,” Simoes says. “It’s a matter of principle for us. If they change their attitude, we will be happy to talk. But as things stand now, we have no intention of working with them.”

Medusa is keeping mum about the spat, which is not about favoring Medusa movies. “It’s just that they don’t have a movie mentality,” Simoes says. “For them, a multiplex might as well be any type of distribution outlet, like a supermarket.”

It’s just business. But in Italy, it happens to be the prime minister’s business.

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