Admissions between January and May up 18%

Box office is booming in Italy, where admissions between January and May were up a whopping 18% to 54 million, while theatrical grosses skyrocketed 31% to $448 million during the first five months of 2010.

And while “Avatar” and other 3D Hollywood blockbusters are instrumental to the upswing — especially higher grosses due to the higher ticket price for 3D titles — local pics are also luring more Italians into theaters.

In terms of admissions, the local share of the Italian movie market has risen 5% to 28% this year so far, according to figures from national box office compiler Cinetel.

That makes Italy the country with the second-highest local market share in Europe after France.

Hollywood pics have taken 59% of total Italo ticket sales, a 5% drop compared with 2009, though the U.S. share of grosses is 63%.

Industryites are hoping for record-breaking 125 million admissions in 2010, compared with 99 million in 2009.

“We have not seen the horrible year that many were forecasting, due to 3D,” Riccardo Tozzi, topper of film and TV producer Cattleya and prexy of Italy’s producers’ org, told a recent Rome U. confab. “Instead, the advent of 3D has gone hand in hand with a rise in national market share, which should stabilize at around 30% for the entire year.”

There are three Italo pics in the current top 10. Leading the local pack at No. 3 is laffer “Me, Them and Lara,” in which multihyphenate Carlo Verdone plays a priest having a spiritual/romantic crisis. It has taken $20 million take via Warners.

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