Published on March 13, 2011 by Martyn Conterio
Although it had fairly dodgy beginnings -Mussolini ordered the film studio built – Cinecittà studios in the heart of Rome, well, outskirts, has become an iconic film studio which provided plenty of Hollywood films with a place to go and make their pictures. Its 1950s and ’60s heyday may be long gone but the romance and history lingers.
Federico Fellini went so far as to call the place “my ideal world, the cosmic space before the big bang”. The 100 acre studio is under threat from lack of big budget productions and state cuts to its archives. A slump has occurred with producers lured away to eastern Europe, where its cheaper to mount productions and the architecture of Budapest provides a cut-rate stand in for the Eternal City, when needed.
Things are so bad for the future of film at Cinecittà they’ve taken drastic measures by opening a theme park complete with hotel and “spa”. Cinecittà World has been built on a separate plot once owned by the legendary Dino De Laurentiis. It has been designed by Dante Ferretti, who is one of the best production designers in the world. Fact.
Maurizio Sperandini, the studio’s deputy manager, has said it is very tough times and that with lack of major film productions they’ve had to look at other options to keep the studio alive, but the future is not without hope:
“What has hit hard are the incentives offered by countries like Hungary, which made them around 25% cheaper. But now Italy has confirmed tax incentives for the next three years which should level the playing field. And we’ve got the weather. Woody Allen will be shooting in Rome in June and we really hope he will use us.”
There are further disappoints, too. Cinecittà archives have been the subject of a controversial cut in funding which threatens the very existence of the films themselves if there’s no money to restore them or save them from destruction as celluloid easily deteriorates. Due to “austerity cuts” the state’s funding of Cinecitta Luce, the archives, has been reduced from 29 million euros to 7 million euros. The arts never fair well in a recession.
The archives under threat involve over 100,000 cinema newsreels, which surely need to be kept for future generations? Luciano Sovena, head of the archives pointed out the drastic nature of the cuts:
“These old films are disintegrating – careful maintenance is essential and any damage would be irreversible.”
Cinecittà is one of the most romantic film studios in the world with countless classic having been made there. Martin Scorsese filmed his dream project (Gangs of New York) there and it’s not only major foreign titles. Italian genre cinema has filmed there with the likes of Sergio Leone, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci having shot some of their most famous films there. It survived a major fire in 2007 but to see Cinecitta go would be a very sad day.