The radical revamp of Italy’s Cinecittà Studios, which has been underway since May, is gaining traction with a rise in occupancy of its sound stages and backlot, realistic prospects for profitability, and new state-of-the-art filming facilities on the way, according to managing director Nicola Maccanico.

Maccanico, a former Warner Bros. and Sky Italia senior exec, came on board in April to run Cinecittà with a mandate from Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini to turn the iconic Rome studios into continental Europe’s top filming facilities thanks to a €300 million ($339) million) investment from the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund. He has since been busy overhauling several of the existing 19 sound stages and getting five new stages built, while also devising a five-year financial plan under which Maccanico expects Cinecittà to start turning a profit in 2023.

In roughly six months, the sprawling studios have reached almost 80% occupancy, having lured international productions including MGM’s “House of Gucci,” Sky’s ancient Rome skein “Domina,” and Showtime series “Ripley,” as well as Amazon’s Italian original “The Bad Guy” and Netflix’s Italian show “Fedeltà.” Cinecittà revenues in 2021 almost doubled to €16.4 million ($18.5 million), and Maccanico’s goal is now 15% year-on-year growth through 2026.

Meanwhile for 2022 roughly 80% of available space is already booked, says Maccanico, with three undisclosed large-scale international productions set to soon arrive on the Cinecittà backlot, as well as Disney Plus Italy original series “Boris 4,” which has already started shooting, and Italian auteur Nanni Moretti’s new pic, produced by Domenico Procacci’s Fandango, details of which are under wraps besides that it will be a comedy.

“It’s a major challenge, but demand for product in the global marketplace is strong and Cinecittà is becoming really well positioned to cater to it,” says Maccanico, who points out that the studios are full-service facilities, including editing suites, sound mix, and 35mm film processing, and that Italy’s generous 40% tax rebate (raised from 30% during the pandemic) remains in place.

A key component of Maccanico’s plan is to lure big production companies and/or broadcasters or streamers with long-term service deals at Cinecittà. under which they will get permanent occupancy of the studios for a stretch of time “which will allow them to plan several productions here and to manage their budgets with less risk and more cost-efficiency,” he said.

In his drive to drum up business, Maccanico in October recruited Rome’s former MIA market chief Lucia Milazzotto to head up a newly created Cinecittà sales and marketing unit. Milazzotto, who was instrumental to turning the MIA film and TV market into a prominent industry hub, is well connected, especially to the big European industry players that Cinecittà is looking to lure, even more than Hollywood studios and streamers.

As for the revamp of Cinecittà’s filming facilities, €195 million ($220 million) of the E.U. subsidy money is being pumped into building five new sound stages, two of which will be more than 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), while five other existing facilities are being refurbished, including Cinecittà’s ancient Rome set to which an amphitheater is being added. 

Meanwhile a large LED smart stage for virtual production will be ready in early 2022, as will a green screen studio for motion capture and 3D shoots. Maccanico said he feels “the urgency of proving that Cinecittà from a technological standpoint can be at the forefront with new facilities aimed at the needs of 21st-century digital shooting,” adding that a state-of-the-art underwater stage is also in the works. 

As previously announced, the Cinecittà revamp also entails the likely entry as partner of Italy’s Cassa Depositi e Prestiti bank which owns a plot of land next to Cinecittà that would add 40 acres to its current 99 acre backlot and allow for construction of eight more 1,000 square meter sound stages. Maccanico said he is now close to sealing the deal that would make Cinecittà the largest studio space in Europe and also help achieve more of a competitive edge against other prominent European facilities such as Germany’s Studio Babelsberg, Hungary’s Origo Studios, and Nu Boyana in Bulgaria.