For the past two years, Italy has been able to celebrate its national cinema on several fronts. Last year was a record year for local films, which grossed 31% of the overall box office, while 2008 has been a year of artistic recognition, with Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo and Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah picking up the Jury Prize and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

Both continue to receive recognition and each took five nominations at the upcoming European Film Awards; Gomorrah is also Italy's Oscar hopeful.

Awards aside, projections show that the share of local films will continue to improve this year and account for 35% of the box office. Data from Cinetel indicates that 2008 will be the best year on record for home-grown films in Italy.

It may simply be down to the introduction of good marketing, better targeting of distribution, and the expected payback to producers who have created local products to fill niches.

Paolo Protti, president of Italy's national exhibitor association Anec, suggests the increase is a result of a year-long flow of product. "There have been (local) films all year long; releases are no longer just seasonal," he says.

So while overall box office is expected to take a dip of about 5% in 2008, concerns are limited. Last year was a record year that ended 12.9% up over 2006 and admissions were the best in 20 years, with 115 million tickets sold. What is more encouraging is that the Italian share of the first three quarters box office of 2008 is already 2% up on 2007.

In the first quarter of 2008, Filmauro's Grande, Grosso E Verdone earned $16.6m (EUR12.9m) and Medusa's Scusa Ma Ti Chiamo Amore took $16.3m (EUR12.7m). After Cannes, Gomorrah earned $13m (EUR10.1m) and Il Divo $6.4 (EUR5m). Then came the summer. After a successful distribution breakthrough in 2007 thanks to Warner Bros releasing the first ever blockbuster in mid-July (Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix earned $23.9m (EUR18.6m)), the local sector was inspired to capture this summer market.

This prompted Medusa to attempt the first made-for-summer film, Un Estate Al Mare, which earned $6.4m (EUR5m): far from blockbuster results but as Protti points out: "It was an experiment and the results were in line with expectations."

In the third quarter there were many Italian titles to come out of the Venice Film Festival: Giovanna's Father, Mid-August Lunch and Perfect Day. Three big local films are to be released in the last two months of the year and expected to push the local share up to the 35% market share predicted. Medusa will release two films: in November, a comedy starring Massimo Boldi called La Fidanzata di Papa and in December Il Cosmo Sul Como, a comedy franchise - expectations for this hover around $25.6m (EUR20m). Finally, Filmauro's Christmas blockbuster, this year Christmas in Rio (Natale A Rio De Janeiro) typically hauls in around $25.6m (EUR20m).

While 2007 and 2008 are positive for the Italian sector, 2008 reveals that the growth is not the casual result of an exceptional local hit. This is especially important considering Hollywood films have performed less well in 2008. Both 2007 and 2008 register seven Hollywood imports in the top 10 films (for the first three quarters). While in 2007 those pictures earned a range of $15m-$26m (EUR12m-EUR20m), the 2008 figures are leaner: $10m-$22m (EUR8m-EUR17m). What the numbers indicate is that if local producers continue to create product to fill the market niches, the local sector could continue to grow in coming years.

Italian Top 10, January 1-October 31, 2008
Title (dist/origin)Box office $ (EUR)
1Kung Fu Panda (Universal/US)$21.8m (EUR16.99m)
2I Am Legend (Warner Bros/US) $17.7m (EUR13.85m)
3Grande, Grosso E... Verdone (Filmauro/It)$16.5m (EUR12.9m)
4Scusa Ma Ti Chiamo Amore (Medusa/It)$16.2m (EUR12.67m)
5Hancock (Sony Pictures/US)$15.38 (Euros11.98m)
6Indiana Jones And The Kingdom... (Universal/US)$17.4m (EUR11.47m)
7Gomorrah (01 Distribution/It)$12.9m (EUR10.1m)
8American Gangster (Universal/US)$12.7m (EUR9.9m)
9The Dark Knight (Warner Bros/US)$12.1m (EUR9.48m)
10The Kite Runner (Filmauro/US)$10.5m (EUR8.18m)
Source: Cinetel