ROME – In what amounts to a milestone moment for Italy’s ailing exhibition sector, Imax on Thursday used the Italo bow of “Spectre” to unveil a 3,000 square foot, 70 mm format, screen in the Happy MaxiCinema in Afragola on the outskirts of Naples, marking Imax’s first foray into heavily underscreened Southern Italy.

Installed within a mall outside Naples, which is Italy’s third largest city, the new Imax site has symbolic significance, standing as testimony to the economic vitality and growth potential of Italy’s South, which is heavily underscreened.

The Happy MaxiCinema Imax stems from an agreement announced in March between Imax and Rome-based Lucisano Media Group, which is active in film production, distribution, and exhibition. Their subsidiary, Naples-based Stella Film, is the main local exhibitor in the Naples area.

The  Imax facility in Afragola is only the fourth Imax in Italy, the other three being in Milan, Sesto San Giovanni, on Milan’s outskirts, and Riccione, all in Italy’s North. Florence and, more significantly, Rome, the Italian capital, are still Imax-less.

“We are proud to bring Imax technology to Southern Italian audiences,” enthused Lucisano group prexy Fulvio Lucisano. Stella topper Luciano Stella noted that Afragola “is a territory with plenty of young people and potential.”

Warner Bros. Italia President and CEO Barbara Salabe attended the inauguration with “Spectre,” Thursday being the day the latest Bond instalment went on release in Italy.

Italy currently has some 3,800 movie screens, mostly concentrated in the Northern and Central parts of the country. That is significantly less than Spain and Germany, which both have over 4,000 screens, while France has more than 5,000.

While there are now over 1000 Imax screens worldwide, penetration in continental Europe is proving somewhat problematic, with just 5 screens in France, 2 new Imax Laser sites in Germany, and 4 in Italy. By contrast, there are 41 Imax screens across the U.K. and Ireland.