Cinecittà CEO Nicola Maccanico, who is a former Warner Bros. and Sky Italia senior exec, is implementing a major upgrade and expansion of the iconic Rome studios where he recently installed Europe’s largest LED Wall on the lot near the large Studio 5 that was once Federico Fellini’s second home. Maccanico, who has ambitions for Cinecittà to become continental Europe’s top studio facility, spoke to Variety from the lot about the symbolic significance of holding the David di Donatello Awards on the premises. Excerpts.

Why is it so important to have the Davids at Cinecittà?
They are being held here exactly a year after the studio’s renewal and new phase started. It’s also a time when Cinecittà is now celebrating being fully booked through most of 2023. So there are symbolic elements of various types: the Italian film community is back together in person at Cinecittà at a time when, after a year on the job, we’ve managed to fill up the studios. And we must continue to make sure that, just as the studio’s renewal takes place, we continue to maintain full occupancy.

How are you going to show off Cinecittà to TV viewers in the Davids ceremony?
We will use the Ancient Rome set for arrivals, and then roll out a very long red carpet that will join the set with the studio where RAI is holding the live ceremony. I really want to thank [Italian Film Academy head] Piera Detassis and RAI general manager Carlo Fuortes because they’ve understood how important is it right now to join forces. The Davids, RAI and Cinecittà in different ways represent the Italian government’s push to support and elevate the Italian industry and we are celebrating this together.

As an Italian film industry expert what do this year’s David nominees say about the state of Italian cinema?
Well, you have great auteurs like Paolo Sorrentino with a film [“The Hand of God”] that has conquered the world. Then you have younger directors like Gabriele Mainetti with his ambitious big-budget spectacle “Freaks Out” and also pure genre movies like “Diabolik.” What emerges from this year’s nominations is that there is a greater variety of genres on display alongside works by the big auteurs. This makes Italian cinema more competitive.

Post pandemic, the box office in Italy is struggling to recover more than in other European countries. What is your take?
Hollywood event movies are performing well, which means that young audiences continue to be willing to see movies in theaters. That’s the good news. The sore spot is that Italian cinema is still struggling to sell tickets. But streamers and pay-TV broadcasters are commissioning unprecedented amounts of Italian film and TV content. This is a sign of health. It’s clear, though, that we have to figure out how to get audiences back into movie theaters to see Italian movies, but we know that the demand is there. It’s always been tough to make Italian “event” movies, aside from comedies. The problem is that now even comedies are struggling in the theatrical arena. What’s left are films from the big auteurs; but that’s not enough. Basically, I think we need to mount bigger productions with more international reach.