Italy Box Office Up 14% in 2019 Thanks to Summer Releases of Hollywood Titles

Box office returns in Italy rose 14% in 2019 to €630 million ($706.5 million), an uptick prompted by a joint effort from Hollywood and the local industry to schedule more summer releases after the country suffered its worst ticket sales in a decade last year.

Italian ticket sales in 2019 reached 97 million, a 13% rise, according to still-incomplete figures released at year’s end by local box office compiler Cinetel, which monitors 95% of the market.

The numbers suggest that, once the final tally is in, Italy will surpass the 100 million admissions benchmark below which the year is considered a negative one, Francesco Rutelli, the head of Italian motion picture association Anica, said in a statement.

The chief of Italy’s distributors’ association, Luigi Lonigro, called 2019 “a turning point,” noting that the country’s summer box office was “the best of the past 20 years” thanks to a dozen Hollywood blockbusters such as “Toy Story 4” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” In the past, few big releases occurred in Italy in the summer, a time when many Italians hit the beach, which then caused a glut of films throughout the rest of the year. The lopsided release schedule is considered a major impediment to the local market’s growth.

Italy’s top-grossing title in 2019 was Disney’s “The Lion King,” which pulled in $42 million, followed by “Avengers: Endgame” ($33 million), also from Disney, and Warner Bros.’ “Joker” ($32.8 million).

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Of these titles, “The Lion King” came out in the summer in Italy, on Aug. 21. However, that was a month later than its release in most of the rest of the world, indicating that Italy’s push to readjust its summer distribution pattern is still a work in progress.

Similarly, while 2019 can be considered a positive year – one in which Italy had strong year-on-year growth –  the Italian market continued to under-perform compared with other major European markets.

Another positive is that Italian titles in 2019 accounted for more than 20 million admissions, according to Cinetel, scoring about €130 million ($145 million), making for a roughly 21% box office market share, which is about the same portion of the local pie as in 2018 and one of the highest market shares for local movies in Europe.

Among top local 2019 performers is Matteo Garrone’s live-action “Pinocchio,” starring Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, which is currently No. 1 at the Italian box office via 01 Distribuzione. It has scored more than $11 million to date since its Dec. 19 release.

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