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

Box office returns in Italy rose 14% in 2019 to €630 million ($706.5 million), a welcome uptick prompted by a joint effort made by Hollywood and the local industry this year to schedule more summer releases, after the country in 2018 had suffered its worst results in a decade in terms of movie ticket sales.

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 indicate that once the final tally is in the 100 million admissions mark that is considered the benchmark below which in Italy the year is considered a negative one will be surpassed said Francesco Rutelli, head of Italian motion picture association ANICA, in a statement.

The chief of Italy’s distributors, 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 “Spiderman: Far From Home” that, in a break with the past, were released in local cinemas during summer months.

Italy’s summer film drought has been known to cause a glut of product throughout the rest of the year and is considered a major impediment to the local market’s growth.

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

Of these titles “The Lion King” came out in summer in Italy. However the Disney blockbuster was released in Italian cinemas on August 21 which is a month later than its release in most of the rest of the world, indicating that the country’s push to realign 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 underperform compared with other major European markets, though it has bounced back after box office results had sunk in 2018 to a historic low.

Another positive is that Italian titles in 2019 accounted for more than 20 million admissions, according to Cinetel, scoring some €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 Mastro Geppetto, which is currently number one at the Italian box office via 01 Distribuzione and has scored more than $11 million to date since its Dec. 19 release.

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