Comedy filmed here a blockbuster in Italy
By Suzy Valentine
An Italian movie that showcases Miami-Dade County as a vacation spot has held top spot at the box office in Italy since its release in mid-December.
"Christmas in Miami" brought $3 million in filming proceeds to the county during shooting last year and could deliver a further boost through tourism from Italy, whose citizens are visiting Miami-Dade in greater numbers, figures indicate.
The film premiered Dec. 16 and has proved more popular among Italian audiences than other recent releases including "King Kong" and "The Chronicles of Narnia."
In 2004, the last year for which full figures are available, Italian visitors accounted for 144,872 overnight stays in Miami-Dade, up 12% from 129,350 in 2003. Figures for 2005 are due in mid-February.
In the meantime, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is engaging in media relations exercises that are consolidating links with Italy.
Bureau officials assisted in a joint visit by Italian magazines Novella and Vira in recent months, said spokeswoman Ginny Gutierrez, and county is to host a team from bridal magazine Bella Sposa next month. One of Italy's largest broadcast networks, RAI TV, is to visit this winter while five journalists from Milan are to follow in May. A team from the Italian version of Marie Claire is in town this week shooting photo stills.
"Christmas in Miami" is the latest in a series that, like the old "Road" movies with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, follows the exploits of two comedians in locations around the globe. Miami is the latest and possibly the last of the series.
"Massimo Boldi said it was his last," said Claudio Di Persia, president and artistic director of the Italian Film Festival. Mr. Boldi is co-star of the film with Christian De Sica. "It's like 'The Odd Couple,'" Mr. Di Persia said. "You take out Jack Lemmon, and there is no odd couple."
Officials of production company Filmauro, which made the movie, enjoyed filming here so much they could be back, said Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment. "There is some talk that they may come back and do some more."
Meanwhile, Mr. Di Persia is trying to bring a copy of "Christmas in Miami" to show here.
"We were trying to screen the movie here on the same day as in Italy," he said, "but we didn't have a subtitled version. Since the film isn't going to be released here, the company isn't interested in stumping up cash for a communications campaign."
That, said Mr. Di Persia, is because the brand of humor is culturally specific. "The company doesn't want to open in the US," he said, "because it's unlikely to make a lot of money in Miami."
Mr. Di Persia said he would continue to try to acquire a subtitled version for screening in February or March, probably at the Regal Cinema in Miami Beach.
Meanwhile, South Florida film officials expect to hear the fate of proposed TV crime series "Dexter" this week. A team from Showtime shot a pilot last summer based on the books of Coconut Grove native Jeff Lindsay.
"A TV deal can prove better from an economic standpoint," said Mr. Peel. "Serious TV provides more bang for your buck. A domestic series or two brings the dollars and the attention. That goes for 'CSI: Miami' too, which, although the crew only visits for a few days at time, brings healthy profits."
Film office representatives continue to visit shows in the US and abroad to promote the county. They plan to participate in a trip to Spain with the Beacon Council and outreach efforts in Los Angeles, New York and London this year.