The Venice Film Festival is exerting a positive impact on the Italian box office where Mario Martone’s “The King of Laughter” (“Qui Rido Io”) got a boost over the weekend from its Lido launch that landed the Toni Servillo-starrer in the number two spot after Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Italy’s box office results this past weekend saw “King of Laughter,” in which Servillo plays Neapolitan theater luminary Eduardo Scarpetta, score €314,840 ($372,000) from 291 screens via 01 Distribution for a €1,079 ($1,276) per screen average. That’s not bad considering that Italian movie theaters are operating at 50% capacity due to COVID-19 health safety measures and that Martone’s pic didn’t win any Venice prizes.
To put Martone’s “King” post-Venice result into perspective, “Shang-Chi,” in its second Italian frame, pulled €692,791, for a €1,143 ($1,352) per-screen average, and a total €2.7 million ($3.1 million) Italian haul to date via Disney.
“We are happy that audiences are going back to the cinema and that they are loving ‘Qui Rido Io’ which features one of Toni Servillo’s most powerful performances,” tweeted Indigo Film, the pic’s production company. Indigo is best known as the shingle behind Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” where Servillo famously plays the lead.
Another much more niche Italian film, Andrea Segre’s “Welcome Venice,” which launched via distributor Lucky Red from the independently-run Venice Days section, clocked in at number 10 on Italy’s box office chart on Monday, albeit with a mere €62,016 ($73,400) in ticket sales but from just 48 screens, meaning that some screenings were reportedly sold out. Segre’s pic is about two Venetian brothers who come into conflict over the use of their family home, which one wants to turn into a bed and breakfast to exploit mass tourism.
The Venice effect wasn’t as effective on Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter” which Universal released in Italy on Sept. 3, one day after its Lido launch. Schrader’s Poker thriller, starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe, opened on the Sept. 3 weekend in Italy at number six. “Card Counter” is now placed at number seven at the Italian box office with a total €313,303 ($370,00) from 243 screens, according to Italian box office compiler Cinetel.
That’s still not so bad, considering that in the U.S. “Card Counter” launched at number eight this weekend, after Venice and Telluride bows, pulling a more robust $1.1 million from 580 screens via Focus Features, according to studio estimates.
Venice Artistic Director Alberto Barbera in his closing remarks on Sunday, after the fest ended Saturday, played up this year’s attendance numbers on the Lido which saw admissions for fest screenings total 153,265. That is a 63% rise compared with Venice’s 2020 edition and just 7% less that 2019, which was a pre-pandemic year.
“Let’s hope that this positive trend will continue,” Barbera said. “And that finally people will leave their couches and increasingly flock to movie theaters,” he added.
That, of course, is the hope nurtured by Italian distributors for the slew of festival films soon to be released locally now that Venice has hopefully whetted appetites. Starting with Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” on Sept. 16; followed by Nanni Moretti’s Cannes pic “Three Floors,” on Sept. 23; Cannes Palm d’Or winner “Titane” on Sept. 30; and Venice Golden Lion winner “Happening” in a still unspecified late October slot.