Ferretti in charge of $800 million development

Rome’s Cinecitta Entertainment and Mayor Gianni Alemanno have unveiled an $800 million movie theme park based on classic titles, including “Ben-Hur” and Federico Fellini’s films, which built the fame of Cinecitta Studios, known in its heyday as Hollywood on the Tiber.

Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti (“The Aviator”) is in charge of the concept and creative side of the attraction, modelled in part on Hollywood’s Universal Studios park.

Work on the long-gestating Cinecitta World will start next year. The first section will open in 2011 and the entire park should be complete by 2014.

“It will be a thrilling voyage through the movies that made Cinecitta great,” Ferretti told a packed presser on Wednesday, adding that the aim is to appeal to all generations, not just older cinephiles.

While organizers are keeping mum about specifics of the attractions, one ride will feature the huge slide that Marcello Mastroianni travels down as his sexual history flashes by in Fellini’s “City of Women,” on which Ferretti was the set designer.

Alemanno said Cinecitta World will aim to fill the gap that the Eternal City suffers in terms of attracting tourists, compared with Paris and London.

“Theme parks are a global phenomenon that prompts hundreds of thousands of people to travel; but Italy, and Rome in particular, has been terribly behind in this sector,” he said.

The park’s goal is to attract four million visitors per year, said Emmanuel Gout, the former Canal Plus exec who is Cinecitta World’s topper.

Cinecitta World will be located on 400 acres in Castel Romano south of Rome, partly on the backlot of the former Dino De Laurentiis studio complex known as Dino Studios, which Cinecitta now owns.

Established after the 1997 privatization of Cinecitta, Cinecitta Ent. is 80% held by Italian Ent. Group whose partners include producer Aurelio De Laurentiis and fashion entrepreneur Diego Della Valle. Italian insurance giant Gruppo Generali holds the remaining 20% stake.

As previously announced, plans are also underway for a smaller more kiddie-conceived Rome theme park, the $450 million MagicLand, based on Italy’s Rainbow Studios’ global Winx fairies franchise and other Rainbow properties, also with a 2011 target opening date.

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