Fire Sets Rome's Cinecitta Studios Ablaze

The flames destroyed part of Studio 5, where Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" was shot.

ROME – For the second time in less then five years, fire destroyed part of Rome’s legendary Cinecitta movie studios, when part of Studio 5 -- best known as the studio where many of Federico Fellini’s films were shot -- burst into flames very early Thursday.

Firefighters said they are still seeking to determine the cause of the blaze, which started around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Marcello Popoli, captain of one of the firefighter units that responded to the call, said that arson has not been ruled out.

Cinecitta, built in 1937, is the oldest and largest set of film studios in Europe. It has seen the production of most of Fellini’s best-known films including La Dolce Vita and Satyricon, plus epic dramas including Ben-Hur, the 1959 classic from William Wyler; Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra from 1963; Carol Reed’s 1965 classic The Agony and the Ecstasy; and the 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli.

More recently, Cinecitta was involved in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 production Gangs of New York, Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic and Passion of the Christ from Mel Gibson, both from 2004, plus scores of television programs including the HBO series Rome, which was filmed in Cinecitta between 2004 and 2007.

In August 2007, more than 32,000 square feet of Cinecitta’s studios were destroyed by fire, including a small part of the Ben-Hur set and much of the sets from the Rome HBO series.

The Studio 5 fire was much smaller, according to Popoli, who said the damage was limited because the fire was put out quickly, though he said firefighters were on the scene for around five hours.

Roberto Cicutto, the CEO of the studios, told Italian journalists Studio 5 would be back in operations by the end of August. No ongoing productions will be interrupted by the blaze, Cicutto said.

Local police said they were questioning workers who had been camping out at Cinecitta since July 5 in protest of reforms to Italian labor laws being pushed through by the technocrat government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. Those reforms will remove many of the guarantees currently enjoyed by workers in the entertainment industry. But police said there was no reason at this time to suspect the protesters.

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