Italy's first-quarter box-office results show that while overall box office is lagging compared to the same period last year, local product has remained strong. The data is important to the industry as 2007 saw local films boom, making a significant contribution to raising last year's overall box office to levels not seen for 20 years.

Over January 1-March 25, 2008, admissions declined from 32.7 million in 2007 to 29.4 million in 2008, representing a 10.3% drop. The decrease accounts for a loss of almost $30m (EUR20m) in overall box-office takings, from $309m (EUR196m) to $278m (EUR176m) according to Cinetel, the Italian box-office data compiler.

Meanwhile, although Italian films' market share has slipped, the figures are still strong. In the first quarter of 2008, Italian product took 36.7% of the market compared with 41.2% in the same period of 2007. From January 1-March 25, 2008, US films accounted for 51.6% of the market against 50.9% for the same period of 2007. Both years are an increase over 2006, when US titles took 43.7% while local films represented 35% of the market for those first-quarter dates.

In the first three months of 2007, four local films were among the top 10 for the period, while the start of 2008 saw six local films at the top of the chart (see table, right).

However, last year 10 out of the first 12 weekends saw a total box-office gross of more than $15.8m (EUR10m). For 2008, only five out of the first 12 weeks have passed the EUR10m mark. Without important summer releases, it is not clear if 2008 can stay on par with 2007's box-office returns.

"Last year we had Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire released in July," says Paolo Protti, president of Anec, Italy's distributors' association. July typically sees no new releases in Italy, but distributors and exhibitors hoped the success of Harry Potter would change this pattern. So far, however, no US studios have big releases scheduled. Protti says The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Kung Fu Panda will be released locally in late August.

In an attempt to keep summer moviegoers' interest, Italy's Medusa Films will release comedy Un Estate Al Mare, a blockbuster-style local film directed by Carlo Vanzina, on June 28. "It's the first time a major Italian film will see a summer release," Protti notes, although he admits "foreseeing (a year-end result) at this point is not easy".

ITALY: TOP 10 FILMS JAN 1-MAR 25, 2008
1I Am Legend (US)$21m
2Scusa Ma Ti Chiamo Amore (It)$19.5m
3Grande, Grosso E Verdone (It)$17.4m
4American Gangster (US)$15m
5Parlami D'Amore (It)$11.5m
6L'Allenatore Del Pallone 2 (It)$11.2m
7Quiet Chaos (It)$8.4m
8No Country For Old Men (US)$8.3m
9Black And White (Bianco E Nero) (It)$7.7m
10Into The Wild (US)$7.6m