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Italo helmer delivers one-two B.O. punch

ROME — Leonardo Pieraccioni, the Florentine actor-director who has become a household name in Italy with three consecutive hit films in as many years, continues to add new B.O. records to his scorecard, this time with the rare achievement of having both the highest- and second-highest-grossing releases of the same year.

Figures from national box office monitoring service Cinetel place Pieraccioni’s Christmas 1996 release, “The Cyclone,” in the No. 1 spot, with takings of $27.7 million during the period beginning Jan. 1. But the same director’s current hit, “Fireworks,” is inching up to take the lead, with grosses to date of $26.6 million in its fifth week.

Cinetel covers the 168 main situations in Italy and represents around 74% of national box office. Complete figures released by the Cecchi Gori Group, which produced and distributes both films, place the national total for “The Cyclone” at $44 million, making it Italy’s highest-ever earner. “Fireworks” looks set to challenge that record, however, with total B.O. to date of $37.9 million, according to Cecchi Gori.

Disappointng stretch

After a disappointing stretch for local productions in 1996, during which only one homegrown hit made it into the top 10, a total of four Italian pics appears in this year’s chart. The other films are Gabriele Salvatores’ “Nirvana” ($6.9 million) and Paolo Virzi’s “Ovosodo” ($6.7 million). Pieraccioni has been almost single-handedly responsible for pushing the market share for local films up to a current high of 34%.

Cinetel’s top-grossing imported titles of the year so far in Italy have been the live-action “101 Dalmatians” ($9.7 million), “The English Patient” ($8.6 million), “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” ($8.3 million) and “The Fifth Element” ($7.7 million), which is now in its third week of release and looks set to overtake some of the earlier entries.

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