A gay romance has proved to be box office gold in Italy despite a ban by the Vatican which restricted its release to just 10 screens.
The Italian Bishop’s Conference Film Evaluation Commission classified Weekend as “not advised, unusable and scabrous (indecent or salacious)”, but the film still debuted with the country's strongest per-screen average last weekend - $6,221 per theatre.
What's even more remarkable is that the film by British writer-director Andrew Haigh, the man behind HBO's gay drama series Looking, was originally released in 2011.
Variety reports that the Vatican owns many of the country’s arthouse movie theatres, which gives it sway over which films are picked up for distribution despite the church not operating the cinemas. Its ban meant Weekend could not be played in more than 1,100 cinemas which are owned by the church.
The president of movie distributor Teodora - which is responsible for the film's Italian release - said that he believes homophobic censorship was behind the Vatican ruling.
“I cannot see any other explanation than a problem of homophobia in the church,” Cesare Petrillo told Agence France-Presse.
“They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyse the distribution.”
“Normally, a film like this would have been picked up by many of these cinemas. Instead there are whole regions and big cities like Florence, Bergamo and Padova where we have not been able to get it put on. And the only reason for that is that the main characters are gay.”
Weekend was critically acclaimed following its original release. It chronicles the 48-hour romantic relationship of two gay British men after they meet at a night club.
It is set to broaden its release to 21 screens in Italy next week.