Despite the Italian industry's sustained efforts, the localbox office summer season has once again failed to properly take-off, withupcoming 2004 summer releases few and far between.

The Italian box office will benefit from the day and daterelease of three Hollywood juggernauts before the summer officially kicks in,all of which will be distributed by Italian branches of US studios: Warner BrosItalia will release Troy on May 21 and Harry Potter And The PrisonerOf Azkaban on June 4, 20th Century Fox Italia will release The Day AfterTomorrow on May 28 and UIP will release The Stepford Wives on July9.

However, few Italian indies look set to release a majorpicture after mid-May: Medusa will release Out Of Time, with DenzelWashington, on June 18, and Bim will distribute The Motorcycle Diariesin Italy on May 21, during the Cannes Festival, where the film premieres.

Warner Bros Italia, meanwhile, has decided to delay theItalian release of the Pedro Almodovar's Cannes opener, Bad Education,until October 8 - a surprising move given the Spanish director's popularity inItaly, where his last film, Habla Con Ella, grossed Euros 5.7m.

Similarly, the distributors of two potential Hollywoodblockbusters have also postponed their Italian releases. Spiderman 2, whichwill be released internationally on July 16, won't be released in Italy untilSeptember 16.

And Shrek 2, which is premiering in competition inCannes, will only be released in Italy on December 17. (In 2001, Shrekgrossed Euros 6.3m in Italy after it was released by UIP on June 15).

Although distributors hope to increase their revenues byreleasing their films after Italians return from their summer holidays, bysignificantly delaying the release of Shrek 2 and Spiderman 2,distributors could actually be shooting themselves in the foot.

Piracy in Italy is rampant, and officially confirmed to bethe worst in the Western world. When Spiderman 2 and Shrek 2 areeventually released in Italy, both films will have been circulating online andoffline for months.

In the meantime, Italian distributors have also delayed theindigenous products until after the summer. While they are understandablyreticent to compete with the Hollywood summer releases, distributors are alsowaiting to see which local pictures will find a launch-pad at the Venice FilmFestival.

As such, 01 Distribution will only release Gianni Amelio'shighly anticipated The Keys To The House, with Charlotte Rampling, inSeptember, after its near-certain screening on the Lido. Likewise, 01 will onlyrelease this autumns films by two of Italy's top-grossing directors, MichelePlacido's Ovunque Sei with Stefano Accorsi, and Giuseppe Piccioni's LaVita Che Vorrei, with Luigi Lo Cascio.

Richard Borg, thehead of Italian distributors union, UNIDIM said "It's not always easy toconvince producers to release their films during the summer because they preferto see their films distributed simultaneously in Europe. But we believe insummer releases and are trying to distribute more films during that time. It's notalways possible. But this year, we can say we've made a lot of progress withthe help of everyone."