With multiplexes mushrooming around the country, Italy recorded a healthy 7.8% rise in earnings at the box office in 2002 as total revenue increased to Euros 525m, according to annual data released by Cinetel. Last year, box office revenue stood at Euros 475.6m.

Admissions were up 6% to 89.1m compared to 84.1m in 2001, while 15 new multiplexes opened, bringing the total number of cinemas with more than eight screens to 51.

Proof that more multiplexes mean more business was highlighted by the fact that 30.1% of total admissions were clocked in at multiplexes, a 7.7% rise on the previous year.

While the market share of Italian movies edged up just 2.8 % to 22.8%, their box office revenue leapt an astonishing 24.1% to Euros 116.5m, thanks in particular to a trio of homegrown blockbusters: Pinocchio (Euros 26m), The Legend Of Al, John And Jack (Euros 19m), and Christmas On The Nile (Euros 18.9m).

Meanwhile, the market share of US pictures continued to hover around the 60% mark (+0.48%) while their total earnings rose 8.33% to Euros 316m.

Hitting a ten-year high, Italy produced a bullish 130 movies in 2002 compared to 103 the previous year, investing Euros 277.6m (+28.9%) on local pictures and co-productions during 2002. The average investment rose 2.2% to Euros 2.13m per picture. Private investments rose 36.3% to Euros 204 m while state contributions climbed to Euros 73.6m, up 13.1% from 2001.

Distribution-wise, it was another bumper year for Medusa, which released the three top films of 2002: Pinocchio, Lord Of The Rings (21.5m), and The Legend Of Al, John And Jack.

Joint third in the list of the year's top films was Spider-Man (Euros 19m), followed by Christmas On The Nile (Euros 18.9m), Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets (Euros 17.2m), A Beautiful Mind (Euros 14.6m), Signs (Euros 11.1m), Ocean's Eleven (Euros 10.29m) and Minority Report (Euros 10.28m).