Cinecitta World Theme Park Opens in Rome

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Cinecitta World

The $338 million theme park celebrates the triumphs of Italian cinema, with Ennio Morricone having created the soundtrack for its Sergio Leone-inspired Western set.

ROME  Cinecitta World, a $338 million (250 million euros) project 11 years in the making, has opened its doors to the public in Rome.

Built on the site of the former studios of Dino De Laurentiis, known as Dinocitta, Italy’s first cinema theme park is set to inspire guests to step into the world of cinema creation.

The park, which boasts 20 attractions, eight film sets, four restaurants and four theaters, is small relative to the size of Disneyworld or Universal Studios, but park chairman and CEO Emmanuel Gout says it offers something much more. “At Universal Studios you step into their movies. America organizes the dream for you. There’s not a lot of space for personal imagination,” says Gout. “What we’re able to do is offer a place for shooting movies, where you can excite your imagination for cinema.”

The focus of the park is on a cinema studio, not on the product. The park staff is not dressed as cowboys or aliens, but as set technicians, constantly “filming” a movie that doesn’t exist.

Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone created the soundtrack for the park’s Sergio Leone-inspired Western set. Dante Ferretti, who has taken home three Oscars for art direction, did all the drawings for the park. He drew inspiration from his “three historical co-conspirators,” Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Martin Scorsese.

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The sets are not taken from specific movies, with the exception of the park’s entrance, a daunting temple taken straight from the 1914 silent film Cabiria. “I could hear the Voice of Cinema saying, ‘come everyone, come and see what’s inside, enter the dream,’” said Ferretti in a statement about the park’s iconic welcome.

Other sets include more generic versions of ancient Rome, a spaceship, a submarine, and an old-time New York set, where visitors might see anything from Gangs of New York to Ragtime to Once Upon a Time in America.

Gout works out of the park’s headquarters inside an original Dino De Laurentiis office building. Inside the building, there’s still a small private elevator, painted in gold. This led directly to De Laurentiis’ apartment, where he could “inspect” prospective actresses for his films. A helix-shaped staircase leads up to offices, which still retain their 1960s character. The park boardroom is a Dr. Strangelove-esque meeting table that served as a set for The Godfather: Part III.

“My job here was to organize Italian excellence,” says Gout, who credits the parks top quality across food, design, shows and production. Indeed, the level of attention can be seen on anything from colorful park benches to playful streetlights. Immaculately detailed Bumper cars seem inspired by the 1950s Ferrari. A 260-ft fountain shoots water 65 feet high, with an Italian flair set to rival Dubai.

As Italy doesn’t do fast food, the four restaurants on site all feature top local food made on premises. Cinecitta World’s biggest rollercoaster takes guests on a smooth ride of ups and downs, and a hell-inspired ride peaks with the devil surrounding each car before dropping it 16 feet into darkness.

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The park is expecting 1.5 million visitors by 2015, with an estimated turnover of  $74 million (55 million euros). Whether the park can attract repeat visitors will remain to be seen. The average tourist visit to Rome is only two to three days, as after jam-packed days of sightseeing the Vatican and Coliseum; they are too worn out to stay longer. Cinecitta World wants to add an extra day to that journey.

It doesn’t hurt that the Castel Romano Designer Outlet, which attracts four million visitors a year, is directly across the street. And Gout has spent a great deal of time training his new staff on the ins and outs of service, something rarely seen at high levels in Europe.

Cinecitta is the largest film studio in Europe, and counts Martin Scorsese and Paul Haggis among its regulars. For the studio, which has fallen from over 350 productions a year in their heyday, to just 50 in the last six years, Gout expects Cinecitta World to bring some fresh air to the industry. “It’s a window for what Cinecitta can do for cinema,” he says.

Cinecitta World is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. General admission tickets are $39 (€29) for the day, and $31 (€23) for reduced admission.  

Twitter: @Aristonla