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Italian Film Business Bounces Back With Production Percolating as Box Office Picks Up


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Italy — which is the Country of Focus at this year’s European Film Market in Berlin — is flourishing in terms of production activity just as its box office grosses start to pick up. Yet there’s room for improvement in terms of the number of titles that are able to break out internationally.

The Cinema Italiano output currently stands at over 350 movies a year, including co-productions, which is up compared with pre-pandemic levels. Still, while exports are growing, Italy only has a handful of directors — such as Paolo Sorrentino, Luca Guadagnino, Matteo Garrone and Alice Rohrwacher — whose movies consistently manage to travel around the world.

That said, a new generation of Italian auteurs is emerging. Case in point are the country’s two titles in the Berlin Film Festival competition: star-studded sci-fi film “Another End,” and musical comedy “Gloria!”

“Another End” is the sophomore work by Piero Messina, whose first film, “The Wait,” launched at Venice with a splash in 2015. “End” stars Gael García Bernal and Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”) as lovers caught in an unusual bind.

“Gloria!,” by first-time director Margherita Vicario, is set in an 18th century Venetian girls’ boarding school. The film follows a young rebel who leads a group of performers that challenge classical canons and invent a precursor to pop music.

Another first feature, the dramedy “There’s Still Tomorrow,” which is the directorial debut of popular Italian actor Paola Cortellesi — who also stars — recently scored a whopping success. Cortellesi’s black-and-white film about the plight of an abused housewife in post-war Rome pulled a whopping $36 million at the local box office late last year, landing the numero uno spot on the 2023 chart. In Italy, “Still Tomorrow” beat “Barbie” which, at No. 2, pulled roughly $35 million.

“There’s Still Tomorrow” has found a theatrical home in a slew of international territories via Vision Distribution, though a U.S. sale is still pending.

All told, Italian theatrical revenue rose roughly 60% to €495 million ($542 million) in 2023 while the country’s admissions tally reached 70.5 million, which reps a roughly 60% increase compared with 2022. A healthy showing, but pre-pandemic, the benchmark of a good year was considered 100 million admissions.

In terms of film exports, Italy’s top seller is currently Garrone’s international Oscar-nominated drama “Io Capitano,” about the Homeric journey of two young African men, Seydou and Moussa, who decide to leave Senegal to reach Europe. Pathé has secured deals all over the world — including Cohen Media Group for the U.S. — for the film. “Io Capitano” realistically depicts the protagonists’ journey through the desert, the horrors of detention centers in Libya and the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Other Italian movies currently enjoying global visibility include Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera” in which “The Crown” star Josh O’Connor plays a British archeologist who gets involved with an international network of stolen Etruscan artifacts. “La Chimera” — whose North American rights were snapped up by Neon while the film was in production — sold worldwide by the Match Factory after the film premiered last year in Cannes.

The Match Factory also did brisk global biz — including a U.S. sale to Cohen Media — with veteran auteur Marco Bellocchio’s Cannes title “Kidnapped,” which reconstructs the true tale of Edgardo Mortara, a young Jewish boy who was kidnapped and forcibly raised as a Christian in 19th century Italy.

And Italy’s other 2023 Cannes competition title, Nanni Moretti’s “Il sol dell’avvenire” (“A Brighter Tomorrow”), a multilayered love letter to filmmaking in the age of streaming giants, sold well via France’s Kinology, scoring deals across Europe and Latin America.

New Italian Movies Set to Hit This Year’s Festival Circuit

“Another End” – Gael García Bernal and Renate Reinsve (“The Worse Person in the World”) star as lovers caught in an unusual bind in Italian director Piero Messina’s sci-fi film “Another End” which is competing in Berlin. This second feature by Messina – whose first feature, “The Wait,” launched with a splash in the 2015 Venice competition – is set in a near-future when a new technology exists that can put the consciousness of a dead person back into a living body in an attempt to ease the grief of separation. Sales: Newen Connect

Untitled Paolo Sorrentino Film
This still untitled 10th feature by the Oscar-winning director of “The Great Beauty” is about a woman named Partenope “who bears the name of her city but is neither siren nor myth,” as Sorrentino has cryptically put it. In Greek mythology, Parthenope – as she is known in English – is the name of a siren who, having failed to entice Odysseus with her songs, cast herself into the sea and drowned. Her body washed up on a symbolic foundational rock where Naples lies. Neapolitans in Italy are also known as “Parthenopeans.” The film’s main cast comprises Luisa Ranieri, who played the emotionally troubled aunt Patrizia in “The Hand of God”; Gary Oldman; and Silvio Orlando, who was Cardinal Voiello in “The Young Pope.” Sales: UTA and Fremantle.

“Queer” – Luca Guadagnino’s William S. Burroughs adaptation features Daniel Craig playing the renowned counterculture author’s alter ego, an outcast drugged-out, American expat who lives in Mexico, and “Outer Banks” star Drew Starkey as a younger man, a discharged American Navy serviceman, with whom he becomes madly infatuated. Sales TBA

“Iddu” – Toni Servillo, who played Roman socialite Jep Gambardella in Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” and fellow Italian A-lister Elio Germano, star in this drama about Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro, dubbed “the last godfather” directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza (“Sicilian Ghost Story”). The roles respectively being played by Servillo and Elio Germano are being kept under wraps. Sales TBA

Untitled Gabriele Mainetti Film – Mainetti, known internationally for genre-bending titles “They Call Me Jeeg” and “Freaks vs. the Reich,” has shot a kung fu movie set in Rome’s multi-ethnic Piazza Vittorio quarter. His still untitled third feature sees him riff on martial arts movie tropes, following his fresh takes on a 1970 Japanese cartoon series in “Jeeg,” and then on the Nazi hunter film genre in “Freaks.” The Rome-set kung fu movie stars Chinese martial artist Liu Yaxi, who was Liu Yifei’s stunt double in Disney’s “Mulan,” alongside Italy’s Enrico Borello (“Lovely Boy”), Sabrina Ferilli (“The Great Beauty”), Marco Giallini (“Perfect Strangers”) and Luca Zingaretti (“Montalbano”). Sales: Vision Distribution

“Gloria!” – Singer-songwriter Margherita Vicario makes her directorial debut with this musical comedy set in an 18th century Venetian female boarding school where a young rebel leads a group of performers who challenge classical canons and invent a precursor to pop music. Sales: Rai Cinema International

“My Summer With Irene” – Carlo Sironi, whose first feature “Sole” went to Toronto and Berlin in 2020, is back. This time in Berlin’s Generation section, with this relationship drama starring rising French indie star Noée Abita (“Slalom”) and Maria Camilla Barandenburg (“Slam Italia”) playing two 17-year-olds named Clara and Irène who both have health issues. Shortly after meeting, they run away together to an island where they experience an unforgettable summer. Sales: Fandango

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