Italian Moviegoers Shrug Off Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Director Fausto Brizzi

ROME – Sexual harassment allegations against Italian director Fausto Brizzi do not appear to have had a negative impact on the box office performance of his Christmas comedy “Poveri ma Ricchissimi.” The movie has opened at No. 3 on the Italian box-office chart via Warner Bros. in a country that seems largely unaffected by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Brizzi was accused last month of sexual misconduct by several Italian actresses on investigative TV show “Le Iene,” allegations that made a splash in the Italian media. Brizzi has vehemently denied having non-consensual sex, but said in a statement following the allegations that he was suspending all work and business activities. No legal charges against him have been reported.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Italia removed the hit-making helmer from all promotional material and activity for the “Poveri ma Ricchissimi” but decided to forge ahead with its planned wide release last Thursday.

The hotly anticipated film, which is a sequel, debuted on 438 screens and pulled in about €1.1 million ($1.3 million) in its first frame, which is more than opening numbers for the first installment, “Poveri ma Ricchi.” That movie opened at No. 3 in mid-December 2016 with about a €1 million take.

Warner Bros. Italia in a statement noted that “Poveri ma Ricchissimi” scored 18% more at its debut than “Poveri ma Ricchi” in the same release slot, but refrained from any other comment.

Over the weekend, “Poveri ma Ricchissimi” beat rival homegrown Christmas comedies “Natale da chef,” which came in at No. 6 via Medusa, and also “Super vacanze di Natale,” which weighed in at No. 7 via Universal.

“That’s a sizeable distance,” genre movies specialist Marco Giusti noted in his box office report. He added that it did not appear the allegations against Brizzi had any influence on moviegoers.

Brizzi did not do promotion for “Poveri ma Ricchissimi,” which stars longtime Italian box-office magnet Christian De Sica. Brizzi’s name did not appear on posters and in the trailer that Warner Bros. issued for the film, which centers on a crass nouveau riche family in a Roman province. Brizzi’s name does appear in the film’s opening credits.

Italians have come under media scrutiny recently for appearing to be unconcerned about issues raised by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. “In Italy, #MeToo Is More Like ‘Meh'” was the headline of a recent New York Times piece, which quoted the head of the country’s lower house of parliament, Laura Boldrini, as saying that the Weinstein case had not inspired women to speak out on harassment or assault the way it has in the U.S. and other parts of Europe.

One exception is actress-director Asia Argento, who is one of Weinstein’s accusers. Her allegations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul have sparked a fierce battle between her supporters and detractors in the Italian media.

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