Italian distributor can choose with domestic films doing boffo biz

Italy’s RAI Cinema — which has a massive 22 pics unspooling in Venice — has announced several international acquisitions, including David Cronenberg’s Don DeLillo adaptation “Cosmopolis,” Rob Cohen’s revenge thriller “I, Alex Cross,” and Jan de Bont’s China-set “Mulan.”

Domestically, pubcaster RAI’s film arm includes a pic by Carlo Virzi, whose “The First Beautiful Thing” was Italy’s 2010 foreign Oscar candidate. Details on Virzi’s next work are being kept under wraps, beyond describing it as a bittersweet comedy about a young couple contending with a timely issue.

“Beautiful Thing,” among last year’s Italo standouts, had been financed and distributed by Medusa, which is RAI Cinema’s biggest local competitor.

RAI Cinema has also boarded Italo helmer Carlo Carlei’s English-language “Romeo and Juliet,” starring Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet, being produced by Ileen Maisel and Lawrence Elman of Amber Entertainment. Shakespeare adaptation is expected to start shooting in Verona, Italy, this fall.

Given that Italian movies are humming locally, RAI Cinema’s current policy is to buy less American product, picking mostly high-profile Hollywood titles that can generate big box office.

However “it’s not easy to find available American blockbusters, so we’ve also focused on smaller films,” said RAI Cinema managing director Paolo Del Brocco.

These include Spanish helmer Rodrigo Cortes’ paranormal thriller “Red Lights,” starring Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver, which RAI purchased from Santa Monica-based Parlay Films.

It acquired “Cosmopolis” starring Robert Pattinson from Gaul’s Kinology; “I, Alex Cross,” toplining Tyler Perry, from QED Intl.; and the live-action “Mulan,” starring Ziyi Zhang, from Arclight Films Intl. unit Easternlight Films.

Del Brocco said RAI will be looking for more product at AFM.

Besides pics in sidebars, RAI Cinema in Venice is the Italo distrib of George Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” as well as three competition titles from Italy: Emanuele Crialese’s “Terraferma,” Cristina Comencini’s “When the Night,” and Gianni Pacinotti’s “The Last Man on Earth.”

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