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Polanski’s ‘Pompeii’ takes shape

RAI acquires Italian rights to film

Roman Polanski’s “Pompeii” is percolating.

Italy’s RAI Cinema has acquired all Italian rights to the historical tentpole set against the backdrop of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption, and Spain’s spanking-new Ciudad de la Luz studios has been inked as the Roman-era thriller’s main production hub.

Following a fierce bidding war with Medusa, RAI plunked down a handsome sum — said to be in the $10-15 million range — for “Pompeii,” which has a projected $130 million budget.

Deal was inked by RAI Cinema topper Giancarlo Leone with Polanski and producer Robert Benmussa’s RP Prods., which is producing along with Alain Sarde.

Summit Entertainment has also recently come on board to handle worldwide sales, excluding one or two European territories, besides Italy.

Pathe Distribution is in negotiations to take French rights.

Meanwhile, Polanski, Benmussa, and line producer Daniel Champagnon have inked with Ciudad de la Luz to base the production in the Valencian facility. This will allow them to tap into sweet new local 12%-18% tax rebates capped at €5.4 million ($7.2 million).

Valencia’s Sorolla Films will possibly enter as a co-producer, channelling the regional rebates into the film. Polanski and Benmussa have also recently approached a raft of Spanish producers and TV channels to co-produce “Pompeii,” one of the costliest European film projects ever. They aim to raise $13 million for Spanish rights.

Pic has a projected August start with plans for a five-month shoot.

Polanski, Benmussa and Sarde in March dispatched set designer Allan Starski to scout the real Pompeii archeological site in Italy and view Roman artifacts in the nearby Naples Archeological Museum. Starski and his assistants on their visit drew sketches and measured columns and mosaics.

But while Italy’s Campania region film commission is proposing incentives to lure the “Pompeii” production to lens on site, 90% of the shoot is expected to be done on Spanish soundstages, backlots and locations.

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