Italian distributors andexhibitors have reacted strongly against a suggestion by Aurelio De Laurentiisthat Italy should counter the crisis that is currently hitting its box officeby simultaneously releasing films in cinemas, on Pay-TV and on DVD at differentprices.

Laura Fumagalli, marketingdirector of Arcadia, an avant-garde digitally equipped multiplex near Milansays that Italian exhibitors have recently invested an enormous amount of moneyto ensure that the cinematic experience is a unique one for the spectator."A spectator now recognises that the experience he has in a cinema is notthe same as he has when watching a film on DVD or on TV. So De Laurentiis'ssuggestion is inconceivable," she said.

De Laurentiis's proposalfollowed news that Italy's box office slumped 35% in May compared to the samemonth in 2004, and has tumbled 14% in the first five months of the year.

In an interviewwith leading national daily Il Corriere della Sera, De Laurentiis, whoserecent producer credits include Manual Of Love and Sky Captain AndThe World Of Tomorrow said:"Technology is forging ahead, the Internet is progressing and kids aredownloading films and selling them at 4 Euros if they haven't yet been releasedand 1 Euro if they're already out in cinemas. How do you react' It's easy, I'mready to do it. Firstly, you have to make films that the public likes.Secondly, we should release films in cinemas which people can see for Euros 6;on the same day they should come out on DVD at Euros 5, and on Pay-TV at Euros15, and they should have a big distributor behind them."

ANEC, Italy's nationalexhibitors union, issued a statement calling De Laurentiis's proposal"completely unacceptable." Several local exhibitors argued that DeLaurentiis's suggestion would actually damage the entire film industry andwould have inevitable repercussions on the contractual relationship betweenexhibitors and distributors.

Paolo Ferrari, head ofWarner Bros Italy, said he strongly hopes "Italy will maintain the threeor four month window we currently have."

Like otherindustry insiders, Ferrari says the real cause behind the drop in admissions isthe recession that Italy is currently facing.

"The filmindustry is suffering from the consequences of a general economic crisis inItaly. People have to cut their expenses, and cinema is one of the ones togo," Ferrari said.

Meanwhile,ANEC said that while the current box office slump is worrying, it is not justlimited to the Italian market and does not justify any "sense ofpanic."