Historic lot sees bountiful biz

ROME — Since Benito Mussolini cut the ribbon to launch Cinecitta Studios in 1937, the sprawling facilities just outside Rome have endured despite wild fluctuations in the political climate, the business climate and artistic climate.

Following its partial privatization in 1997 — after at least a decade in the red — Cinecitta has radically revamped its post-production facils and gradually has regained its status as a world-class hot spot for international filmmaking.

The historic Rome lot is so packed right now that the Renny Harlin-helmed reshoot of Morgan Creek’s “Exorcist: The Beginning” is lensing on stages at the adjacent Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia film school.

On Cinecitta’s backlot, workers have been striking the ancient Jerusalem set used for Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” so they can build an ancient Rome set for “Rome,” an HBO and BBC historical series that will soon come to stay for at least one year.

A half-dozen Hollywood pics have been made at Cinecitta over the past two years, including Miramax’s “Gangs of New York”; Disney’s “Under the Tuscan Sun”; and Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic,” currently in production.

“The idea of shooting at Cinecitta is a lifelong dream for Wes who is a big fan of Italian cinema, especially Fellini,” says “Aquatic” producer Barry Mendel. Anderson visited the studios when he came to Rome for the first time for publicity on “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Marco Bellocchio’s “Good Morning, Night” is among the recent Italo pics made there. But despite the flurry of filmmaking activity, local TV shows still occupy most of Cinecitta’s 22 stages.

Cinecitta’s goal is to the one-stop shop for productions in Europe, and recently upped the ante by launching Cinecitta Financial Consulting under indie producing vet Christian Halsey Solomon.

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