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Italian Box Office Sinks to Worst Result in a Decade

Box office returns in Italy dropped about 5% to €555 million ($631 million) in 2018, posting their worst result in a decade as Hollywood blockbusters drew in fewer Italian moviegoers than usual.

On the bright side, Italian films gained traction last year, scoring a 22% market share, up from 16% in 2017, marking the second-best showing in the past four years, according to box office analyst Robert Bernocchi. He said that this surpassed the results for homegrown pics in Spain and Germany, which clocked in at about 17% and 18%, respectively.

U.S. films in 2018 nabbed a total of €330 million ($375 million), accounting for 60% of Italy’s market share. That’s a solid result, but roughly six percentage points lower than in 2017, fueling the country’s overall box office drop. The year’s top grosser was Fox’s international hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which has pulled in more than €21 million ($23 million), and counting.

Italian ticket sales in 2018 were just shy of 86 million, according to figures from box office compiler Cinetel. They plunged below 90 million for the first time in 10 years, Bernocchi noted. Historically in Italy, 100 million admissions is considered the benchmark below which the year is considered a negative one.

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By contrast, 2018 admissions in Spain, with which Italy is usually compared, were 97.7 million, even after a slight dip.

“There is no doubt that these numbers are very worrying,” said Bernocchi, who blamed the drop mostly on Italy’s persistent structural problem of a low number of releases in summer, when Italians traditionally hit the beach en masse, causing a glut of releases the rest of the year.

Studios, local distributors and exhibitors have all pledged to deliver more releases in the summer of 2019, but they have made such promises before without following through. It remains to be seen whether they follow through this year and what impact such a move would have.

Despite the falloff in attendance, all top 10 films in Italian were U.S. productions or co-productions. But a higher number of local pics than the year before managed to pull in more than $6 million at local turnstiles.

The year’s top Italian draw was ensemble dramedy “A Casa Tutti Bene” (“There Is No Place Like Home”), which earned about $10 million, marking a major comeback at home for Italian director Gabriele Muccino, who made a splash in Hollywood with Will Smith-starrers “Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds” but then struck out there.

Among the other Italian titles that helped boost local market share were popular comic Carlo Verdone’s “Benedetta Follia” ($9.5 million); smart social satire “Like a Cat on a Highway” ($8.6 million); Paolo Sorrentino’s two-part satirical biopic of Silvio Berlusconi, “Loro,” which took in about $8 million combined; and Ferzan Ozpetek’s melodramatic thriller “Naples in Veils” ($4.7 million).

Local box office darling Checco Zalone, whose smash hit comedy about job security, “Quo Vado?”, grossed a whopping $68 million locally in 2016, is due back in 2019 with a still-untitled immigration-themed movie, which should help fill more seats.

TOP TEN HITS, ITALY, 2018

Title, Distributor, B.O. Gross, Admissions

1. ”Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox, €21.2 million ($23.8 million); 2.9 million

2. “Avengers: Infinity War,” Disney, €18.7 million ($21.2 million); 2.6 million

3. ”Fifty Shades Freed,” Universal, €14.3 million ($16.2 million); 2 million

4. ”Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Warner Bros.,€12.7 million; ($14.4 million); 1.8 million

5. ”Hotel Transylvania 3,” Warner Bros. €12.2 million ($13.8 million);  1.9 million

6. “Incredibles 2,” Disney, €12 million ($13.6 million); 1.8 million

7. ”Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Universal, €10.6 million ($12 million); 1.6 million

8. ”Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle,” €10.2 million ($11.5 million); 1.5 million

9. ”Mary Poppins Returns,” Disney, €9.7 million ($11 million); 1.4 million

10. “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” Disney, €9.4 million ($10.6 million); 1.4 million

(Source: Cinetel)

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