ROME – The Italian government is investing about €60 million ($74 million) to revamp and relaunch Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, plans for which appear to be gathering steam just a few months after the iconic facility reverted to state ownership.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced a three-year overhaul that would entail new facilities, an on-site museum, a restoration lab, and a video-game production hub on the backlot where Federico Fellini made his movies and where Hollywood classics such as “Ben Hur” were shot.
“This is the symbolic beginning of the new future for Cinecittà,” Franceschini told reporters Wednesday on the Cinecittà lot. He said that the sprawling studio’s long-gestating relaunch is “part of an [overall] investment that aims to put cinema and the audiovisual industry as a whole at the center of the [economic] development of this country.”
Located on the outskirts of Rome, Cinecittà returned to state ownership last July after languishing for roughly a decade in private hands.
“Putting Cinecittà back in public hands may seem strange and anachronistic,” said Roberto Cicutto, who heads Istituto Luce-Cinecittà, the state-run production, distribution and film archives entity, which is now running the studios. But private ownership under a consortium had “proved full of difficulties, including labor disputes, as well as a sharp drop in production,” he said.
As previously disclosed, the revamp envisages construction of two new 34,000-square-foot soundstages. Meanwhile, reconstruction is underway on the Teatro 7 soundstage, which had been destroyed during World War II, and which will host a pool for underwater shoots. There will also be a new post-production studio, a lab for processing and restoring 35mm film, and a studio for motion capture and for VR and video-game productions.
Nicola Borrelli, head of the Italian Culture Ministry’s film department, noted that the Cinecittà relaunch is part of new “revolutionary” film legislation “that the Italian [film and TV] industry had been awaiting for 50 years.” The legislation is expected to pump at least €400 million a year in resources into the industry, from development to distribution.
Borrelli and Cicutto both said that business at Cinecittà is picking up and that they expect the studios to break even in 2020.
The massive 100-acre facility, once considered Europe’s largest, is reaping the rewards of Italy’s generous 30% tax break for foreign film shoots, the cap on which has been raised to €10 million ($12.4 million) for each production company involved on a project.
Production is currently underway at Cinecittà on lavish English-language TV series “The Name of the Rose,” starring John Turturro. Also due at Cinecittà is a portion of the shoot of Netflix’s untitled film about the pope, directed by Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”). The project stars Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI. A Paramount production, which is being kept under wraps, is also booked.
Since Benito Mussolini cut the ribbon on Cinecittà Studios in 1937, the facility has survived the wild fluctuations brought on by Italy’s politics, economy and artistic climate. The hope is that an upcoming national election in March won’t affect the current relaunch.