ROME – Cinecittà Studios paid homage to Federico Fellini on Friday with a commemorative plaque placed by Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino outside the Studio 5 soundstage where the maestro made many of his pics. The ceremony came just as Italy’s top production facility is poised for a long-gestating revamp and a renewed effort to lure foreign shoots.
The Fellini commemoration, attended by “8 ½” star Claudia Cardinale, by Italo Culture Czar Massimo Bray, Cinecittà Studios prexy Luigi Abete, and plenty of prominent Italo industryites, served as a springboard to try and push through a planned revamp of the Cinecittà complex, parts of which date back to 1937.
A comprehensive plan also involves improving Italy’s generous 25% tax break for foreign film shoots, now capped at $7 million, by eliminating that cap and also extending the incentive to TV productions, Cinecittà Studio managing director Giuseppe Basso told Variety.
Basso said he was cautiously optimistic about biz picking up at the historic studios known as Hollywood on the Tiber in their 1960’s heyday which have long been languishing with production levels plummeting since the 1990’s.
Encouragingly, in January 2014 Cinecittà will become Jerusalem for Hollywood epic “Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt,” based on the Anne Rice novel, helmed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, and produced by 1492 Pictures’ Chris Colombus, Mark Radcliffe, and Michael Barnathan, along with Hyde Park Entertainment, CJ Entertainment and Ocean Blue.
Wes Anderson, who shot “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” at Cinecittà in 2003, recently returned to the studios to shoot his Prada-produced short “Castello Cavalcanti.”
In another sign that things are evolving, a $600 million Cinecitta theme park designed by multiple-Oscar-winning production designer designer Dante Ferretti on a separate site is now near completion, with plans to open in mid-2014, Ferretti told Variety.
A $200 million makeover of the studios announced at the start of this year is now reaching final stages of its approval process in modified form. Aside from financing, the approval involves negotiations with workers at the studios who have been opposing the original plan which entailed building a hotel on the lot, considered by critics a useless “cementification,” as well as a new soundstage.
Earlier this week a fire broke out at Cinecittà which burned down the “Big Brother” house built for the 13th edition of the Endemol reality show which airs on Mediaset in Italy. Police are investigating the suspected arson which was the third major fire at Cinecittà in six years. The “Big Brother” house is being rebuilt in time for the show to air in January 2014, Basso said.