The Italian exhibitors body (Anec) has a bone to pick with Italy's National Statistical Institute (Istat) over the conclusions of a recent report analyzing 'cultural consumer trends' that indicates the nation's cinema-going public is diminishing.

The report, released late last week, looked at all forms of entertainment from television to museums to sporting events.

Regarding Italy's cinema-going health Istat concluded, 'while 2005 showed a significant rise in distribution in respect to 2004, movie goers decreased by 7.5 % for a total of 113.2m tickets sold in 2004 to 104.684 in 2005 accounting for an 8.5% decrease in money spent on theatrical projections.'

In reaction, Anec's President Paolo Protti warned, 'While the data is correct, it gives the wrong idea of the market.'

Italy's exhibition organisation tends to be outspoken and meticulous - last
autumn it protested a breach to the gentleman's agreement over release windows -- and successfully lobbied to change the release pattern of Miami Vice on DVD.

But this time, Protti's response is aimed at underlining what Anec says is a growth trend in movie going that the Istat report (which covers 2005) fails to reveal.

'It should be remembered that 2004 was exceptional and closed with over 115m tickets sold,' Protti recalled, giving credit to blockbusters like The Passion of the Christ, The Lord of the Rings and Spiderman 2 - all which raked in more than Euros 20m each.

Protti continued to explain that 2005 was 'less fortunate for global cinema' - which was reflected in Italy by a drop in ticket sales to 105m. 2006 rose by another 2% while the first quarter of 2007 registers a 20% increase year - on - year to the same time in 2006, Anec underlined in their statement.

And while the point is well taken, exhibitors don't have a lot to worry about. Besides the fact that 2007 is a banner year for movie-going here, Istat's 'aspects of daily life' report concluded that 'movie-going would continue to be Italians most preferred form of entertainment.'