The Italian box officeslumped 37% over the weekend as Italians and the world mourned the passing ofPope John Paul II.

The government has decreedthree days of national mourning starting from Monday April 4 and a day ofmourning on Friday April 8, when the Pope's funeral will be held in St. Peter'sSquare. Thousands of Italians and other pilgrims have already startedtravelling to Rome to pay their last respects to the Pope, who will lie instate in St Peter's until his funeral.

According to data releasedby Cinetel, films grossed a total of Euros 5.8m between April 1-3, compared toEuros 9.2m the previous weekend. While Sunday also marked the first day ofvoting in regional elections, analysts said the box office slump was largelydue to the death of the Roman Catholic pontiff. According to reports, a numberof cinemas stayed shut on Sunday, the day after the Pope's death. All thecinemas across the country that belong to the Church were closed.

The top-grossing film overthe weekend for the third consecutive week was Filmauro's comedy drama, Manualed'Amore, which grossed a further $1,784,607 from 418 screens, although itsearnings slumped 54% over the weekend. The picture has now earned $13,310,386.

At number two was anotherlocal film, Alessandro D'Alatri's La Febbre, which opened on Friday andearned $837,943 for 01 Distribution. Hong Kong horror flick The Eye 2was the second-highest grossing new release. Released by Eagle Pictures, thefilm registered $484,524 from 233 screens but posted a meagre average of $2,080per screen.

Meanwhile, as admissionstumbled, millions tuned in to the TV to watch round-the-clock coverage of thePope's last hours at St Peter's and his death. Italy's seven national networksinterrupted their regular programming throughout the weekend and on Monday. OnSunday, channels that didn't broadcast current affair programmes about the Popebroadcast religious-themed feature films and TV dramas.

Figures released on Mondayshowed that 5.2m people (a 45.59% audience share) tuned in to Rai1 to watch theRequiem Mass that was held in St. Peter's square on Sunday. At the same time,around 4m spectators watched a special current affairs program about the Popeon Mediaset's Canale 5.

In the meantime, UIP hasdecided to delay the Italian release of its horror film The Ring Two byone day. The picture was due to come out on Friday April 8, the day of thePope's funeral, but the distributor said it will release the film on Saturdayinstead as a sign of respect for the pontiff.

Citing "obvious motives,"Rome's cultural complex, La Casa del Cinema, has also announced that it willindefinitely postpone a screening of The Exorcist: The Beginning andsubsequent debate which were planned for Tuesday April 5.