Confirming a new, more aggressive attitude at Italy's Istituto Luce, head of distribution Giovanni Tamberi says he is in talks to buy Italian rights to Francis Ford Coppola's expanded version of Apocalypse Now.
Should Tamberi succeed in obtaining rights to the film, which will premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival in May, it would mark another major coup for the state distributor after the acquisition and highly-publicized re-release this week of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In what could also prove to be a double-strike, Tamberi said that should he obtain rights to Apocalypse Now, he will release the film in May or June, in line with Disney's recent announcement that it will launch its WWII action movie Pearl Harbour on June 1 - just one week after its May 25 release in the US.
This summer releasing pattern marks a significant change for Italy, where until recently box office takings have always taken a nose-dive between May and September when cinemas are traditionally closed. But UIP's hugely successful release of Gladiator and Mission:Impossible 2 last May has since paved the way for other majors to announce the release of their big-hitters this summer. This year, The Mummy Returns will open on May 11, the animated feature Shrek will be released on June 15, and Jurassic Park III on Aug 24. Meanwhile, Istituto Luce has just re-released 2001: A Space Odyssey, as part of the company's new "more market-oriented strategy." The film's release on 11 screens nationwide, which Tamberi terms "a very expensive affair," follows a highly-publicized outing at the Vatican - such a success that cardinals are said to have asked for a second screening on March 15.
Italy is the only territory to have managed to wrangle rights to the film from Warner Bros. Tamberi, who took up his position at Istituto Luce last year, said he had courted the US major for five months before persuading it to sell him the rights, having "pursued the studio like a son might torment his father when he wants something badly enough." On a recent buying spree, Istituto Luce has also picked up rights to Enigma, Michael Apted's romantic thriller which screened at Sundance. Other new pick-ups for Tamberi, who adds that the company's aim is not to specialize in the re-release of US classics, include Italian For Beginners, and English-language comedy Off Key, about three opera stars who meet up in New York ten years after their last concert.