Italy's Oft-Delayed Cinecitta World Theme Park Set to Open Early Next Year

Cinecitta World - H 2013

Cinecitta World - H 2013

The ambitious $700 million project will be the first large-scale modern attraction near Rome.

ROME – Work on Cinecitta World, Rome's off-again-on-again cinema-themed amusement park, has finally entered the home stretch, and organizers say it is "almost certain" the theme park will open in the first half of next year.

The $700 million park is being built just south of Rome on an expansive site originally used by famed producer Dino De Laurentiis for studios built to rival Rome's storied Cinecitta Studios starting in the 1960s. The two remain linked, with the theme park expected to feature roller coasters and other rides based on some of the more than 3,000 films and television programs produced over Cinecitta's 75-year history.

"It's an ambitious project and we believe a unique one that will attract tourists with its alchemy that mixes aspects of a tourist attraction, art and the cinema angle," said Emmanuel Gout, Cinecitta World's president.

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According to Mastercard's Global Destination Index, Rome remains one of the world's top tourist destinations (it was 13th in the latest index, released this year). But tourists come for the city's history, architecture, museums, cuisine or for the Vatican -- the city does not have an international-level theme park.

The idea to change that situation is not a new one: The notion of building a major theme park in the Italian capital dates back to at least the 1970s, and the plan that will eventually emerge as Cinecitta World was first broached in 2003, though work has been halted several times since then.

The park now appears on the verge of opening, with designs by Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti. The first phase, the part that will open next year, will be Cinecitta 1, with rides designed for children and families. Three later phases will include shops, restaurants, cinemas, additional rides and film sets. Gout said he expected around 1.5 million visitors in the park's first year, with a staff ultimately reaching around 2,500 workers.

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Cinecitta is best known for giving birth to dozens of iconic films, ranging from William Wyler's 1959 epic Ben-Hur, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita from 1960 and 1963's mega-budget Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, to more modern productions including Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the HBO series Rome. And the studio's connection to the theme park will be unmistakable: Aside from the shared name, the park will include movie sets ("visitors will not move between movies but between sets," Gout said), themed rides and a sort of synergy between the two institutions.

"The park will obviously benefit from the Cinecitta brand, and we think the studio will show its dynamism through the park," Gout said.

Twitter: @EricJLyman