Italo product gains as U.S. fare falls off

MILAN — The Italian film industry is showing healthy signs of recovery, while U.S. movies continue to lose ground, according to national figures for 1997 released this week.

The number of tickets sold during the year for the first time exceeded 100 million (by 372,000), and B.O. revenues improved by more than 50 billion lire, to 925 billion lire ($530 million).

“This very good result was mainly due to European films, while U.S. films, with their repetitive formulas, showed a clear decline,” Italy Deputy Prime Minister Walter Veltroni said.

A total of 110 Italian feature films were produced in 1997 (including co-productions), while in 1996 there were only 73; Italian films had a 29.5% share of the market (13.5% in 1996). The most popular pics were Leonardo Pieraccioni’s “Ciclone” and “Fuochi d’Artifici.”

Movies produced in the rest of Europe also posted positive gains. In 1997 they had a 17.6% share, compared with 8.1% a year earlier. France’s “The Fifth Element” and Britain’s “Bean” had the highest revenues in 1997 among European productions.

The market share of U.S. films dropped between September 1996 and December 1997 to 49%.

“We expect this trend to continue into 1998, with the release of films directed by Francesca Archibugi, Giuseppe Tornatore, Pupi Avati, Ettore Scola, the Taviani brothers and others,” Veltroni said.

Veltroni said he saw improvement in the national exhibition circuit, with a growing number of multiplexes opened in the main cities and a total of 518 new screens authorized in 1997.

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