A gay British film that the Catholic Church in Italy deemed too ‘indecent or salacious’ to be screened in the cinemas it owns has been a surprise hit with Italian movie goers, taking the biggest box office per screen in the country over the weekend.
‘Weekend’ generated more than $6,221 per screen despite debuting at number 19 on the Italian box office chart and only appearing at ten independent cinemas.
One screening in Rome’s Quattro Fontane art house cinema raked in more than $17,000 over the weekend – making it the highest earning film in the Italian capital.
The next highest earner per-screen was ‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’ which earned only $4,217 per screen despite coming in at first place on the box office chart and screening at 376 cinemas across the country.
The Catholic Church owns more than 1,100 cinemas across Italy – effectively giving the Italian Conference of Bishops’ Film Evaluation Commission power over what films people can and can’t see in the country even though the official censor gave the film a 14+ rating.
However, on the back of Weekend’s opening weekend success, another eleven independent cinemas have decided they also want to screen the film, bringing the number of cinemas that will screen it next weekend to 21.
The box office results must console the film’s Italian distributor Teodora Film who accused the Catholic Church of trying to wreck the film’s release.
‘They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyze the distribution,’ Teodora Film president Cesare Petrillo told AFP last week.
The Catholic Church allowed the screening of the Oscar nominated film The Danish Girl in its cinemas earlier this year but only with the warning to audiences that it dealt with ‘complex’ issues that should be viewed in the context of a societal debate.