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Rome’s Cinecitta Makes Major Upgrades to Soundstages, Backlot

Italy has always been attractive as a location, and now that increased global TV and film production is filling up soundstages around Europe, Rome’s Cinecittà is gunning to regain its global status as a top studio.

The fabled facility, located on 99 acres of public land, had lost some of the luster of its 1950s and 1960s heyday, when it hosted international shoots including “Ben-Hur” and epitomized la dolce vita with such movies as “8½.” But it is now in the midst of a radical overhaul, including upgrades to the 19 existing soundstages, state-of-the-art stage space and a 5G broadband network.

Construction is under way on a new 3,500-sq.-meter (37,674-sq.-ft.) soundstage touted as one of the largest in Europe, with plans to cut the ribbon by 2020. Another stage, for green screen, will be completed soon. And a pool for underwater filming will also be ready for action next year

“We want Cinecittà to become a production facility regardless of whether there is a need to shoot in Italy for other reasons,” says studio chief Roberto Cicutto. “Everything we are doing right now is geared toward offering state-of-the-art service to our clients like what they would find at Pinewood or anywhere else.”

It’s clear that because of Italy’s location at the center of the Mediterranean basin, Cinecittà is well-positioned to once again become the prime hub for those who need to shoot anywhere in Southern Europe.

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Even with the revamp yet to be completed, the storied studios have been hosting a steady stream of high-end international productions such as Netflix’s lavish “The Two Popes,” and “6 Underground,” plus the streamer’s Italian original “Luna Nera,” and Hulu’s “Catch-22.”

Line producer Marco Valerio Pugini says Italy’s swift, no-hassle production incentives are helping lure more filmmakers from the U.S. and elsewhere, and Cinecittà’s upgrade and competitive rates can be the clincher to keep them in the country for longer stints.

“Whereas Italy until recently was mostly used for limited ‘postcard shoots,’ it’s now starting to attract productions for the bulk of their shoots,” he says. Among the recent productions he handled, Pugini was Italian line producer on the upcoming Michael Bay-directed “6 Underground.”

Bay’s big-budget actioner was based at Cinecittà even when it was shooting in Florence, Siena and Taranto.

Bay, who shot a key action scene at Cinecittà’s legendary Teatro 5 (once Fellini’s favorite) used prosthetics and VFX provided by Makinarium, which is based on the lot.

Cinecittà and Makinarium have since teamed up to form Cinecittà Tech, which offers 3D, prototyping and photo capture services.

“At first Bay was skeptical about doing the effects here,” says Cinecittà director of production operations Domenico Pinuccio D’Arino, “but when he saw test shots he was impressed.”

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