Warner Village exits plex project on Cinecitta lot

Italo filmmakers protested site

ROME — Following changes to the original blueprint, spiraling costs and vocal opposition from Italian film industry members, Warner Village Cinemas has pulled out of the joint venture to build a 21-screen multiplex on the grounds of Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, while leaving the door open for the exhibition outfit’s participation in a modified version of the project.

Italian media coverage has focused in recent months on protests from a group of veteran Italian filmmakers who voiced their fears about the Americanization of Cinecitta.

The group released statements about the symbolic death of the Italian film industry and the desecration of the historically and culturally significant site under a flood of popcorn and U.S. action movies.

Fears addressed

Concern that the plex would be dominated by U.S. product and give scant space to homegrown pics has been repeatedly addressed by WVC. The company pointed out that its pledge to show a minimum 30% of Italian and European films was one of the prime reasons it was granted the Cinecitta contract.

A regional court is expected to rule Dec. 16 on lawsuits filed by filmmakers association ANAC and Italian consumer rights org CODACONS charging that construction permits for the multiplex — negotiated by umbrella company Cinecitta Holding without WVC’s participation — are not in order.

Building started

In light of these lawsuits, WVC attempted to halt construction plans, but Cinecitta independently contracted builders and ordered work to begin on the site early last month. Damage caused during construction to sculptures used on the set of historical epic “Ben Hur” brought more negative publicity.

Breaking a long silence on the matter, WVC CEO Antonio Maldonado Boschetti met with press Wednesday in Rome to explain that the principal reasons for the company’s withdrawal are far more complex than cultural concerns.

Chief among the problems, according to Maldonado Boschetti, are lack of transparency in Cinecitta Holding’s handling of negotiations, and significant structural changes and additions to the original development plans that have pushed costs up from $20 million to almost $57 million.

“Clearly, we don’t want to be part of a project in which there is opposition to our participation,” Maldonado Boschetti said. “But more importantly, this is no longer an economically viable investment for Warner Village in its present form. We are willing to work with Cinecitta, with the filmmakers and everyone else to develop a project we can all agree on, but it must be a functional project.”

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