Co. also in talks to buy controlling interest in Papigno

ROME — Aiming to become a more competitive European production hub, Rome’s Cinecitta Studios has closed a long-in-the-works deal to acquire rival Roma Studios for E30 million ($37 million).

It is also in final talks to buy a controlling interest in Papigno Studios, near Terni, south of Rome.

Roma Studios, dubbed Dinocitta when founded in the 1960s by producer Dino De Laurentiis, was owned by real estate entrepreneur Riccardo Pisa.

Negotiations had been under way for more than a year, complicated by a legal squabble between Pisa and a company called Seven Seas controlled by Mauro Enrico Parretti. Parretti, son of Italian financier and former MGM chief Giancarlo Parretti, had been renting the five stage sets on a back lot along Rome’s Via Pontina.

“It was complicated because we did not want to enter into a partnership with the studios’ former operators,” Cinecitta Studios prexy Luigi Abete said.

Deal was also stalled by July’s fire at Roma that burned down the set of ABC miniseries “Empire,” the first large production to shoot there since the facility was revived by Parretti fils and others in 2002.

“We have been boosting our international profile, and we realized that we needed more soundstages to make us more competitive,” Abete said.

The Cinecitta prexy also confirmed there are long-term plans to develop a theme park on the Roma Studios back lot, partly modeled on the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles.

Abete also said he hoped to close a deal with the city of Terni and Roberto Benigni to acquire a controlling interest in Papigno Studios.

Benigni is a major partner in the five-stage facility in a former steel mill where his “Life Is Beautiful” and “Pinocchio” were shot. Benigni will also soon complete principal photography in Papigno on “The Tiger and the Snow.”

Cinecitta has 22 soundstages, including the legendary Studio 5, where Federico Fellini worked. Recent Hollywood productions at Cinecitta include Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” and “Exorcist: The Beginning.”

The HBO TV series “Rome” occupies most of Cinecitta’s back lot and two soundstages.

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