Rome (AFP) – Once the home ground for Italy’s greatest directors and actors, from Federico Fellini to Sophia Loren, Rome’s famous film studios Cinecitta are planning a much-needed makeover for a new era.
Nicknamed the “Hollywood on the Tiber”, Cinecitta was at the heart of the golden age of Italian cinema and now hopes to regain some of its former glory thanks to post-pandemic funding from the European Union.
Italy is the biggest beneficiary of the bloc’s stimulus fund and the aging studios are waiting for a windfall of 260 million euros ($ 292 million) to expand and modernize to capitalize on the various ways to watch movies and television now.
“We can give back to this place the light that has always characterized it, and that it deserves,” Nicola Maccanico, CEO of Cinecitta, told AFP.
Cinecitta – which means “the city of cinema” in Italian – has been the backdrop for more than 3,000 films, including 51 Oscar winners.
In recent decades, although critically acclaimed films such as “The Last Emperor” by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1987 and “The English Patient” by Anthony Minghella in 1996 have been filmed at Cinecitta, major productions have been made. more rare.
The studios were inaugurated on the southern outskirts of the Italian capital in 1937 to produce propaganda for the fascist government of Benito Mussolini.
And they have since suffered the upheavals of modern Italian history: the Allied bombings in 1944, the reassignment of studios to housing for people displaced by the war, the economic “miracle” of the 1950s and 1960s and the decline. that followed.
At its peak in the Golden Age of cinema, major Hollywood blockbusters such as “Ben-Hur” in 1959 and some of the most notable works in world cinema like Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” in 1960 were shot in Cinecitta.
But since the end of the 1960s, it has not been able to regain its prestige of yesteryear, due to competition from television and major international productions opting for better-equipped studios elsewhere.
– ‘Unique opportunity’ –
The studios’ current inability to meet the potential demand for TV series and films due to its undersized stage sizes and other shortcomings costs Cinecitta around 25 million euros per year, according to the business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
“For Cinecitta, this is really a unique opportunity because it brings together two situations that are difficult to reproduce: the stimulus package and a booming market,” said Maccanico.
The lion’s share of the money would double the size of the studios, which currently cover around 40 hectares, with the creation of five new sets and the renovation and expansion of five more.
Other upgrades would include an indoor pool for underwater filming, a theater with a 360-degree green screen, and two sets for virtual reality with LED panels.
Maccanico said the growing number of content platforms today created an unprecedented opportunity for movie studios.
“It is in this market context that the idea was born to relaunch Cinecitta … by making a new reference hub for the new European audiovisual production market”, he declared.
– Cinephiles –
To increase its income, Cinecitta has been organizing tours for the public since 2011.
Groups of tourists stroll through the imposing Teatro 5 – Fellini’s favorite and the largest in Europe at 2,880 square meters (31,000 square feet) – or meander amid the open-air decors in faux white marble from ancient Rome or 15th century Florence.
A museum with film clips, photographs and costumes is also open to visitors.
A cinema-themed park associated with the studios also opened on the outskirts of Rome in 2014: Cinecitta World, designed by three-time Oscar-winning decorator Dante Ferretti.
With studios like Pinewood and Shepperton near London, Babelsberg in Germany or Korda near Budapest as rivals, the time may have come for a refurbished Cinecitta.
Italy in 2019 – before Covid closed productions worldwide – was the European country with the highest number of national productions, with 312 films, ahead of France with 240 and Germany with 237, according to the Observatory European audiovisual industry.
© 2021 AFP