Making its first foray into the Italian movie biz, Mondo Cinema is coming on like gangbusters. Since setting up shop in November 2002, the theatrical subsidiary of Mondo TV has already lined up consecutive release dates for its first three 2-D animated kid flicks in a market where movies sometimes sit on the shelf for more than a year waiting for a window to open up.
What’s even more impressive is that the first Mondo film out of the gate last month, The Legend of Titanic (US$12 million), already made its big-screen debut on select Italian screens in 2001, when Mondo was testing the theatrical waters at home and across Europe. The initial showing was so successful that many chains that originally played the film have signed up for a second screening.
Up next at the end of March is The Prince of Dinosaurs (US$12.5 million), an epic co-pro with Korea’s Studio SEK about a gifted young prince who bands together with dinosaurs to fight off an evil witch intent on taking over Earth. And biblical tale Jesus: A Kingdom Without Frontiers (co-produced with Hahn Shin, also based in Korea) promises to pull in a hefty number of Italy’s many Catholic families when it’s released Easter Sunday.
Mondo Cinema is pushing to grow its screen reach to 150 Italian theaters by fall, when it will roll out its second wave of features. Among these will be In Search of the Titanic (US$14.5 million), a September-bowing sequel about the discovery and rescue of an ocean-dwelling community of Titanic survivors.
Mondo TV’s international VP Ricky Corradi says building relationships with domestic booking agents is the key to success in Italy’s theatrical industry. And since company founder Orlando Corradi worked for a number of years in film distribution before starting up the animation studio in 1986, his connections in the movie biz have helped pave the way for Mondo Cinema.
Corradi doesn’t expect the films to make huge profits on their own initially, but Mondo should be able to more than recoup its investment from TV license fees and video/DVD releases. Many broadcasters will pay double for a movie that has been released theatrically, he says, and Mondo set up a home entertainment arm last year to funnel its flicks into that increasingly lucrative ancillary category.