ROME – Rome’s Cinecittà Studios are being celebrated with a Google Doodle on the 77th anniversary of the day the sprawling facilities were inaugurated, on April 28 1937, by Benito Mussolini in an attempt to boost the Italian film industry.
This rare distinction for a film studio caused their website to crash.
Alas the historic studios known as Hollywood on the Tiber in their 1960′s heyday have long been languishing, with production levels plummeting since the 1990′s and workers recently protesting against layoffs amid a long-stalled controversial makeover which has yet to materialise.
Still, the massive 100-acre facility once considered Europe’s largest, where “Ben Hur,” “Quo Vadis” and, more recently, Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of new York,” and HBO’s “Rome” where shot, has seen some international biz lately. A portion of Baltasar Kormakur’s “Everest,” produced by Working Title, recently shot there. And next up is U.S. comedy “Road To Capri,” helmed by Boris Damast, starring Ian McShane, Virginia Madsen, and Maria Grazia Cucinotta, set to start rolling at Cinecittà in the next few days. “Capri” is produced by Rainstorm Entertainment.
Both these pics tapped into Italy’s generous 25% tax break for foreign film shoots which are now capped at $7 million. There are plans for that cap to soon be eliminated which could help lure more foreign shoots.
A Cinecittà theme park called Cinecittà World designed by Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti (“The Aviator”) and based on classic titles including “Ben-Hur” and the films of Federico Fellini is expected to open this summer on a separate site.
For Fellini Cinecittà’s Studio 5 soundstage was like a second home during the glorious days of Cinema Italiano.
As for the current state of Italian cinema, it could use another boost, despite the uplift it got recently from Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” scooping the foreign-language Oscar. Last year investments in the Italian film industry dropped 27% to Euros 358 million (495 million) in total.