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Italian Box Office Drops 12.5% in 2017; Local Movies Suffer, While Hollywood Stays Strong

ROME – Box office returns in Italy plunged 12.5% to €544 million ($645 million) through mid-December 2017 as Italian movies lost theatrical traction while Hollywood titles remained generally strong.

U.S. films grossed €360 million ($426 million) in Italian cinemas between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17, scoring a 4% rise in returns compared with the same period in 2016, according to figures from national box office compiler Cinetel.

Ticket sales dropped to 86.4 million in 2017 from 99.5 million admissions during the same 2016 period. Historically in Italy, 100 million admissions is considered the benchmark below which the year is considered a negative one. By that measure, 2017 was a disaster.

“The Italian share of the market is down,” said box office data analyst Robert Bernocchi. “[Local] comedies did not work as well as they did in 2016, and there doesn’t seem to be a replacement for this genre with other types of [domestic] titles,” he noted, adding that there is also “too much Italian product.”

All told, homegrown movies in 2017 accounted for 16% of the Italian market, down from 28% in 2016. Last year’s local total was buoyed by smash hit “Quo Vado?”, starring Checco Zalone, which single-handedly pulled in more than 10% of the total 2016 haul. There was no Zalone film this year, but by itself, that does not explain the drop in Italian market share, said Bernocchi, creator of the well-respected Cineguru box office blog.

Two Italian titles did manage to crack the year’s Top 10, most notably “L’Ora Legale” (“It’s the Law!”) by comic duo Ficarra & Picone, who co-wrote and directed. The comedy (pictured), set in a Sicilian village where the unexpected election of a straight-arrow high school teacher as mayor causes a ruckus, weighed in at No. 7. The film was released by Medusa, the company owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and is Ficarra & Picone’s biggest hit to date. 

In a year lacking new entries by most Italian heavyweight auteurs, the standout local arthouse title was Gianni Amelio’s Naples-set “La Tenerezza” (“Tenderness”), which raked in €2.7 million ($3.1 million) via Rai Cinema’s 01 Distribution.

Since supernatural and horror films are generally not considered congenial to Italian audiences the standout Hollywood movie of the year in Italy was Stephen King adaptation “It,” which came in at No. 5 with €14.5 million ($17.1 million) via Warner Bros. That is roughly $4 million more than what “It” made in Spain, a territory with which Italy is often compared in terms of box office returns.

Family fare and franchises continued to perform solidly, with “Beauty and the Beast” clocking in at No. 1, followed by “Despicable Me 3,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fast & Furious 8.” The Top 10 list as of Dec. 17 does not take into account  “The Last Jedi,” which was released in Italy on Dec. 13.

The low number of summer releases in Italy, which causes a glut the rest of the year, continued to be a major structural problem in 2017. Local exhibitors association ANEC has underlined that the June-August period in Italy yields roughly 10% of total admissions, while in France and the U.K., by contrast, that period accounts for at least 20% of the local haul. But exhibitors have not been able to unlock more releases in summer, a time when Italians traditionally hit the beach en masse, though that is changing.

ITALY’S TOP TEN BOX OFFICE HITS THROUGH DEC. 17, 2017

1. “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney, €20.5 million ($24.3 million)

2. “Despicable Me 3,” Universal, €17.9 million ($21.2 million)

3. “Fifty Shades Darker,” Universal, €14.8 million ($17.5 million)

4. “Fast & Furious 8” (“The Fate of the Furious”), Universal, €14.7 million ($17.4 million)

5. “It,” Warner Bros., €14.5 million ($17.1 million)

6. “Pirates of the Caribbean” (“Dead Men Tell No Tales”), Disney, €12.5 million ($14.8 million)

7. “L’Ora Legale,” Medusa, €10.3 million ($12.2 million)

8. “Mister Felicità,” 01 Distribution, €10.2 million ($12 million)

9. “Murder on the Orient Express,” Fox, €9.5 million ($11.2 million)

10. “Collateral Beauty,” Warner Bros., €9.4 million ($11.1 million)

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