Dino, Cinecitta on the road to Morocco

ROME — Dino De Laurentiis and Rome’s Cinecitta Studios are in advanced talks to jointly acquire a majority stake in the new CLA Studios in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

De Laurentiis and Morocco’s film-friendly King Mohammed VI cut the ribbon Tuesday in a ceremony at the sprawling 371-acre facility, which is being built in the southern Moroccan desert and should be finished in March.

De Laurentiis has long been involved with Ouarzazate, where he intended to shoot his sidelined “Alexander” project. Now the Los Angeles-based producer is pacting with Cinecitta, which is expected to operate the facility.

Deal envisages De Laurentiis and Cinecitta jointly purchasing a controlling interest in CLA Studios from a group of Moroccan businessmen and real estate entrepreneurs who developed the complex for a reported $8.3 million and would become the venture’s third partner.

“Our lawyers are going down there next week to firm up the details,” said Cinecitta marketing topper Carol Andre Smith.

If the agreement is finalized, the facility, which has two state-of-the-art soundstages with plans for two more, will be renamed Cinecitta-De Laurentiis Studios.

Located amid sand dunes, palm trees and mountains, the desert surrounding Ouarzazate has been a backdrop for Hollywood tentpoles since “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Cleopatra.” More recently, “Gladiator,” Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” and Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” have shot there.

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