2009 Box Office Review - Italy - Part 1
A 5% rise in box office this year to a gross of €623 didn’t push the admissions mark over last year’s performance in Italy. With 99 million admissions, Italy is just about flat with last year and down around 5% from 2007. There was a reduction in overall new releases this year to 355 from 376 in 2008. Italian films including co-productions accounted for 32% of the new releases while US films represented 45%.
Italian box office share was down about 5.5% from last year to 23.4% including co-productions, while Hollywood films controlled 63.5%, an increase of about 3.5% from ’08 and the best performance in the past five years.
The top two films for the year were Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”(€29.7 million) released in 3D and Sony's "Angels and Demons" which captured €18.7 million from 780 screens. Italy was one of the top-performing countries for the earlier Dan Brown adaptation "The Da Vinci Code" where it earned €28.4 million in 2006.
“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” launched mid-summer to an impressive €9.3 million with the widest release of the year on 890 screens. It stayed at number one for four weeks but finished at number three for the year with revenues of €18.4 million.
“Twilight New Moon’s” 699 screen release from Eagle Pictures scored the second largest opening weekend (just after “Avatar”) with €9.6 million at the box office and had a €13.7 thousand theater average. The film went on to cumulatively earn €16.4 million while the original film took €11.8 million in grosses.
Filmauro’s local production of comedy “Christmas in Beverly Hills” with €16.4 million placed fifth but didn’t match last year’s €25 million haul for “Christmas in Rio.”
Disney’s “Up” earned €15.4 million for sixth place among the top performing titles in Italy while Sony’s “2012” scored €14.3 million in cumulative revenue.
Medusa broke the top ten at number eight with Gennaro Nunziante’s comedy feature directorial debut “I Fall From the Clouds” earning €12.8 million followed by another local comedy, Filmauro’s “Italians” which brought in €12.2 million.
Sony’s Mexican film “7 Souls” ranked tenth for the year with €11.3 million at the box office.
With a record setting opening weekend for Italy, Avatar earned just over €9.6 million in three days from 848 screens, for a screen average of €11,382.
The highest-grossing non-Hollywood foreign film was the Bim’s release of Swedish thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which took €3.8 million.
At the end of 2008, Italian companies and co-productions were able to benefit from a new €104 million tax shelter and tax credit scheme that was implemented to run until December 2010. That said, 2009 governmental cuts in arts funding from Fondo unico dello spettacolo (FUS) were reduced to €69.7 million, a 23% drop on 2008. Cinema support continues to represent 18.5% of the total fund allocation (19.5% in 2008) but many local producers are unable to tap into the tax incentives unless they can also count on the FUS fund to get a project off the ground.
The Italian government’s 24% stake in the Cinecittà studio facilities was put up for sale. Cinecittà Holding installed a new management team and absorbed film promotion body Filmitalia, following a sale of the Mediaport exhibition chain. The Minister for Culture hopes to set up a self-financing Agenzia Nazionale per il Cinema along the lines of the French CNC.
Italy’s Anti Audiovisual Piracy Federation reports that the film industry loses an estimated €530 million to piracy annually. Physical piracy such as bootleg DVDs, online/digital piracy such as downloaded films and indirect piracy such as gifts/viewing of pirated films are the most significant problems here.
The press and some in the local film community are concerned that some of the more prestigious English language films don’t have Italian distribution. Distributors blame the closure of 750 single screen cinemas in urban areas for the tougher market conditions for art house films. The rise to 60% of audiences at the box office who go to a multiplex for any given film, and the subsequent drop to 40% for urban cinemas, means that Italian, European and independent American films have more trouble reaching urban, adult audiences. Moreover, the spread of 3D in the larger cinemas takes away this important section of the film cinema circuit as the multiplexes program the blockbusters and single screens are left to the art house audiences.
Ellen Pittleman, http://hybridentus.com, is a veteran studio executive based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she served as SVP, International Co-Productions and Worldwide Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She also launched the DVD Premiere group there, with films including Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and the sequel to the $100MM+ “Save the Last Dance.” Working from a marketing and distribution perspective, she consults on strategic planning, deal negotiation, acquisitions, film library valuation and feature development with clients from Rio to London to Beijing. She’s also currently developing a feature on George Foreman’s comeback years, among other projects.