Following a three-day meeting Rome, Italian exhibitors, led by trade association ANEC president Walter Vacchino, have begun lobbying the government to prevent the construction of new multiplexes in and around metropolitan areas.

The rise of multiplexes has helped fuel an increase in admissions in Italy. 200 new multiplex screens were built in the territory during 2002 and admissions went up from approximately 84 million to over 89 million.

However, according to ANEC, these figures hide the reality of a drop in box office admissions in larger urban areas, where many smaller exhibitors are being forced to close because of competition from multiplexes.

Italian General Secretary of Culture Carmelo Rocca firmly supports ANEC's initiative and says that the measures must be regulated first on the local and regional level and later mandated into national law.

"Existing cinemas must be protected, and new screens opened there where they are needed and where the people are, to allow them the possibility of going to the movies near home," said Rocca.

As a further sign of protest against what Rocca calls the "cannibalisation of smaller cinemas on the part of multiplexes nationwide," ANEC has organised a week of Euros 2 ticket prices in numerous cinemas throughout Italy.