Cinecittà (Italian for Cinema City) is a large film studio in Rome that is considered the hub of Italian cinema. The studios were constructed during the Fascist era as part of a scheme to revive the Italian film industry. In the 1950s, the number of international productions being made there led to Rome's being dubbed Hollywood on the Tiber.
The studios were founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini, his son Vittorio, and his head of cinema Luigi Freddi under the slogan "Il cinema è l'arma più forte" (Cinema is the most powerful weapon). The purpose was not only for propaganda, but also to boost the Italian feature film industry, which was in crisis at the time. Mussolini himself inaugurated the studios on April 21, 1937. Post-production units and sets were constructed and heavily used initially. Early films such as 1937's Scipio Africanus and 1941's The Iron Crown showcased the technological advancement of the studios. Seven thousand people were involved in the filming of the battle scene from Scipio Africanus, and live elephants were brought in as a part of the re-enactment of the Battle of Zama.
The studios were bombed by the Western Allies during the bombing of Rome in World War II. Following the war, between 1945 and 1947, the studios of Cinecittà were used as a displaced persons' camp for a period of about two years, following German occupation and Allied bombing that destroyed parts of the studio. An estimated 3,000 refugees lived there, divided into two camps: an Italian camp housing Italians as well as displaced people from colonized Libya and Dalmatia, and an international camp, including refugees from Yugoslavia, Poland, Egypt, Iran, and China.
After rebuilding in the postwar years, the studios were used once again for their post-production facilities. In the 1950s, Cinecittà was the filming location for several large American film productions like Ben-Hur, and then became the studio most closely associated with Federico Fellini.
After a period of near-bankruptcy, the Italian Government privatized Cinecittà in 1997, selling an 80% stake. On August 9, 2007, a fire destroyed about 3000 m² (32,000 sq. ft.) of the Cinecittà lot and surroundings. The historic part that houses the sets of classics such as Ben-Hur were not damaged, however a good portion of the original sets from the HBO/BBC series Rome were destroyed. In July 2012 another fire damaged Teatro 5, the vast studio where Fellini filmed La Dolce Vita and Satyricon.
The studio opened a movie-themed amusement park, Cinecittà World, in July 2014. The €250 million theme park is located approximately 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Cinecittà studios, on the site of a former movie studio built by Dino De Laurentiis in the 1960s.
Cinecittà World was designed by Dante Ferretti, a production designer who has won three Academy Awards. Visitors enter Cinecittà World through the jaws of the Temple of Moloch, seen in Cabiria, a silent movie filmed in Turin in 1914. The theme park also features a recreation of 1920s-era Manhattan as envisioned by Ferretti.
Cinecittà World expects to have 1.5 million visitors annually. Expansion plans for the theme park include a nature reserve and a wellness center.
Since the days of Ben-Hur, the studios have welcomed international productions including Helen of Troy (1956), Francis of Assisi (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), Fellini's Casanova (1976), Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968), La Traviata (1982) and many other grand film productions. Recent films include Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Cinecittà also hosts TV productions, such as Grande Fratello, the Italian version of Big Brother, where the Big Brother house is built on Cinecittà's premises. It has also been home to the filming of The Passion of the Christ, starring James Caviezel and directed by Mel Gibson.
In addition, the BBC/HBO series Rome was filmed there from 2004 to 2007, the show being widely acclaimed for its sets and designs. BBC Wales reused some of these sets for an episode of the 2008 series of Doctor Who set in ancient Pompeii, and Alexandre Astier reused this set for the Book VI of his television series Kaamelott set in Ancient Rome.
- Bondanella, Peter E. (2001). Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present (in English). Continuum. p. 13. ISBN 9780826412478.
- Bondanella, Peter. Italian Cinema From Neorealism to the Present. The Continuum Publishing Company: New York, NY, 1995. pp. 19.
- A documentary, “DP Camp of Cinecittà” by Marco Bertozzi, based on research by Noa Steimatsky, had its world premier on January 30, 2012, at The Italian Cultural Institute of New York, in New York City. (http://www.iicnewyork.esteri.it/IIC_NewYork/)
- Steimatsky, Noa. The Cinecittà Refugee Camp (1944–1950). October Spring 2009, No. 128: 22–50.
- Michael Day (December 13, 2013). "Decline and fall of Rome’s cinematic empire: The end for Italy’s famed Cinecitta studios?". The Independent.
- "Fire torches film sets at Rome's historic Cinecitta". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
- "Incendio a Cinecittà: le fiamme avvolgono lo storico Teatro 5" [Fire at Cinecittà: flames surround historic Studio 5] (in Italian). RomaToday. July 12, 2012.
- Povoledo, Elisabetta. (2014, July 21). Investing in Fantasy to Save a Fraying Reality. The New York Times.
- Official website
- Cinecittà on Facebook
- History of Cinecittà
- RAI International:Cinecittà
- Documents Cinecitta'
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