Google Doodle Celebrates 77th Birthday of Italy's Cinecitta Studios

Google Italy
Google Doodle's homage to Cinecitta

Europe's oldest film studios, home to many epic productions, opened on April 28, 1937.

ROME – Google helped Italy’s Cinecitta Studios celebrate its 77th birthday Monday by creating a “Google Doodle” -- the custom-designed artwork on the search giant's home page -- that pays tribute to the historic studios.

Cinecitta, dubbed “Hollywood on the Tiber” during its heyday, was opened by then-Italian leader Benito Mussolini on April 28, 1937 as part of an effort to expand Italy’s cultural reach through film.

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The Google Doodle, which shows the facades of a fictional studio set, was visible for Google users Monday in Italy and the U.K.

The oldest film studios in Europe, Cinecitta secured its place in cinematic history by hosting most of Federico Fellini’s best-known films including La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, and 8½, plus epic dramas such as Ben-Hur, the 1959 classic from William Wyler; Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra from 1963; Carol Reed’s 1965 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 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, both from 2004, plus scores of television programs including the HBO series Rome, which was filmed at Cinecitta between 2004 and 2007.

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In recent years, productions at Cinecitta have dropped off due in part to less expensive options in Eastern Europe. Studio workers have gone on strike to protest layoffs, parts of the studios have been damaged by fires and a much-heralded makeover has yet to get underway.

However, a government-sponsored 25 percent tax break for non-Italian films shot in Italy has helped lure a new round of productions to the Eternal City. Recent productions include Baltasar Kormakur’s Everest and comedy Road to Capri from Boris Damast, which is just starting pre-production at Cinecitta.

The current tax break is capped at $6.9 million (€5 million), though there are discussions to raise or eliminate the cap, which could attract even more projects to the august studios.

Twitter: @EricJLyman