Rome’s Legendary Cinecitta Studios Return to State Ownership

Cinecitta Exterior - H 2012

Cinecitta Exterior - H 2012

The Italian government is revamping the backlot that played host to 'Ben-Hur' and 'The Young Pope' in a bid to lure in more international productions.

After nine years of private ownership failed to return Rome’s Cinecitta Studios to its prior glory, the state is taking back ownership of the Italian film compound.

The government-controlled Luce-Cinecitta Institute confirmed Monday its acquisition of the historical complex originally made famous by Federico Fellini. Cinecitta's previous owners tried to lure big Hollywood productions to the Italian backlot, but had little success beyond a handful of box-office bombs including Ben-Hur and Zoolander 2. The studio did notch up a few high-profile TV shoots, though, including HBO's The Young Pope and Sky's Diabolik.  

Cinecitta Studios, founded by Benito Mussolini, originally opened 80 years ago on April 28, 1937. The state is stepping in again to launch a revamped Cinecitta, with plans to build two new 32,000 square foot state-of-the-art soundstages in the spirit of Fellini’s famed Teatro 5 backlot. The organization also is planning a massive marketing campaign to lure in new productions from outside of Italy.

The Luce-Cinecitta Institute also will be charged with preserving and promoting the massive historical archive of the Institute Luce, managing MiBACT funds for cinema productions and creating the Italian Audiovisual and Cinema Museum, dedicated to great Italian film works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Also in the works is a new Cinecitta Digital Factory for postproduction and restoration and a Cinecitta Entertainment District targeting tourists with a series of exhibitions and events.

The Cinecitta revamp was made possible by Italy’s new Cinema Law, championed by culture minister Dario Franceschini. Highlighted as the most important legislature in Italy’s audiovisual industry for decades, the new law is expected to inject approximately $454 million into the local industry, along with existing tax credits of up to 25 percent of a film or television budget after years of recessionary trends.

Industry insiders are hoping that the new law, currently being finalized by the government, as well as Italy’s attractive landscape and labor will help bring back American and other international productions to Rome, which was a key film location throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood but has lost ground in recent decades to cheaper venues in Eastern Europe and to the more high-tech offerings in London.