ROME – Italian exhibitors are up in arms over broadcaster Mediaset’s decision to air Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” Italy’s contender for the foreign-language Academy Award, in primetime on its flagship Canale 5 TV station on March 4, two days after the Oscars ceremony.

The decision to air “Beauty” for millions of Italians on free TV shortly after the Oscars has local exhibbers fuming, both because they are eager to capitalize on the frontrunner pic’s positive prospects, and also because Mediaset, which is the country’s top commercial network, is breaking with the Italian practice of a roughly two-year window between a title’s theatrical release and its free-TV bow. However in Italy this window is a gentleman’s agreement and is not cast in stone.

Italy’s exhibitor orgs have urged Mediaset to reconsider its decision to air “Beauty” in order to avoid “subverting the chronology of [a movie’s] media play and a value chain which is a guarantee for all players in the industry,” they said in a joint statement. Mediaset has not commented. 

“Beauty,” which has swept the foreign film categories at the Golden Globes and at Britain’s BAFTA’s – and was also the big winner at the European Film Awards – went on release in Italian movie theatres on May 21, 2013, the day after its Cannes bow. Since then Sorrentino’s pic has pulled a strong roughly $10 million, via Medusa, which is Mediaset’s movie unit. It is currently playing on 15 Italian screens. In January Mediaset released “Beauty” on SVOD via its recently launched Infinity platform.

“Beauty” is co-produced by Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima’s Indigo Film with France’s Babe Films, Pathe Prod., and France 2 Cinema, and co-financed by Medusa.