Italy has finally fullycommitted to a 12-month box office season, and next summer's releases will beon a par with other European territories, an industry conference heard onTuesday (Dec 14).

As a sign of theircommitment, national exhibitors' association ANEC and distributors union UNIDIMhave published a catalogue detailing the names and approximate release dates ofa hefty list of titles that will be distributed next summer.

These include Ridley Scott'sKingdom Of Heaven, Wimbledon, Star Wars Episode 3, and Danis Tanovic's Inferno,which will all be released in May. June will see the release, among others, of IHeart Huckabees, Batman Begins, Stephen Spielberg's War Of The Worlds,and Manoel Oliveira's Quinto Imperio. July titles include The LongestYard, Fantastic Four, and Man Of The House.

The new releasing schedulemarks a dramatic break from the past. During the hottest months, most ofItaly's one or two-screen cinemas have traditionally been shut as cinema-goerslargely flock to the beach and desert non- or poorly-air conditioned theatres.

In recent years, thecountry's mushrooming (air-conditioned) multiplexes have stayed open forbusiness during the summer, but box office results have been poor as fewdistributors committed to releasing any new titles between May and September.

"After years ofdiscussions, we will have as many titles next summer as other Europeancountries," UNIDIM head Richard Borg said proudly.

He added: "This marksthe end of the debate [in Italy] over summer releasing. We will finally have a12-month box office season, after years of trials and tribulations andsacrifices."

ANEC head Walter Vacchinosaid he was particularly happy that as opposed to the past, films that will bereleased next summer are "titles that will hold for more than twoweeks."

"We're happy. We'vemade it," he said.

Nevertheless, although itwill bring its releasing pattern in line with other European territories, Italywill still retain some of its cultural idiosyncrasies.

As such, no titles have beenscheduled for release between August 1st and August 20, when the vast majorityof Italians are on vacation and all Italian businesses shut down for severaldays.

"For Italians, theAugust 15th [Catholic] bank holiday is sacrosanct. It is the same in France andSpain," Borg said. "But the real problem isn't August. The realproblem has always been May, June and July."

Meanwhile, Carlo Bernaschi,the vice-president of Italian film organization ANICA, urged the Italiangovernment to give full financial support to a media campaign encouragingItalians to go to the cinema during the summer.

"Given that we now havethe cinemas and the films, the cultural ministry must find a way to finance astrong promotional campaign," he said.