‘Nero Fiddled’ while Sony slotted

SPC follows 'Midnight' pattern for Allen's next pic

ROME — Italy’s Medusa Film has set the launch date of its first full-fledged international co-production: Woody Allen’s “Nero Fiddled,” which will world-preem in the Eternal City’s Auditorium Theater on April 13.

Medusa fully financed the approximately $25 million film, working with producer Letty Aronson. It had originally slotted Allen’s latest, an ensembler in which he appears, for an October bow. But Sony Classics wanted a June slot for its U.S. launch, mimicking the pattern for “Midnight in Paris.”

“Given that the film is shot in Rome, and partly in Italian, we could not come out months later,” says Medusa topper Giampaolo Letta. The pic will bow in France in June and in September in Germany.

Allen’s new work was lensed in some 70 Rome locations — including the Via Veneto and the Ara Pacis mausoleum — it’s a love letter to the capital city, which treated Allen like royalty. The ensemble cast includes Penelope Cruz, Ornella Muti, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Roberto Benigni.

Interestingly, despite being flush with cash, Medusa, a unit of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, has not been buying, passing on pics at the AFM and EFM.

“There is a tendency for Italian audiences to snub American movies these days, unless they have some really special and fresh elements, and most of those titles go out via the majors,” Letta says.

Instead, he notes, the market for Italian pics in Italy — which reached a 37.5% share in 2011, second in Europe only to France — is booming.

Case in point: Even a studio blockbuster like UPI’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” which bowed Jan. 27 in Italy at No. 3, cumed a meager $7.8 million. Compare that with the $35 million that “Welcome to the North,” Medusa’s sequel to hit remake “Welcome to the Sticks,” has pulled in since its Jan. 18 bow in the numero uno spot.

Now Letta is mulling an Italo remake of another Gallic phenom, “The Intouchables,” which has pulled $5 million in Italy in two weeks, via Medusa.

Medusa is sitting pretty these days, dominating the Italo box office with a whopping $223 million in grosses in 2011, and going gangbusters this year with a 43% market share.

But rather than acquisitions, Medusa’s game plan internationally is to mount high-profile co-productions, based on the French model — think Studiocanal and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Looking ahead to Cannes, Medusa this year has submitted Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Io e te” and Sergio Castellitto’s Sarajevo-set English-language drama “Into the World,” toplining Cruz, for festival consideration following on the heels of last year’s successful “This Must Be the Place,” the Paolo Sorrentino-helmed Sean Penn starrer it co-financed.

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