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Italy

Medusa

2008 B.O. CUME: $170 million

TOPPERS: Carlo Rossella, president; Giampaolo Letta, VP/managing director; Paolo Pozzi, head of distribution.

UP NEXT: “Burn After Reading” (Sept. 19), “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Oct. 3), “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” Oct. 10

Italy’s Medusa is a production/distribution/exhibition powerhouse that gives “vertical integration” special meaning, since it’s also the sister company of Italo Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset web.

That means that besides owning 100 screens in key Italo multiplexes, Medusa wields a mean marketing machine with preferential access to the country’s top commercial broadcaster, plus plugs in a raft of Berlusconi-owned magazines.

That said, Medusa’s strength really lies in its product philosophy. “We combine quality and also audience-friendly films,” as managing director Giampaolo Letta put it recently.

In other words, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Venice opener “Burn After Reading” and crass comedy “Un estate al mare” (A Summer at the Sea) by Italy’s hit-churning Vanzina brothers, regularly blasted by local critics, are on their slate.

Medusa in 2008 is second in Italy only to Universal in terms of grosses, with local titles accounting for 39% of its take, its top earner so far being local teen romancer “Sorry if I Call You Love.”

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