Decline and fall of Rome’s cinematic empire: The end for Italy’s famed Cinecitta studios?

Another fire and falling returns could spell the end for a famed studio complex

Rome

It has created cinema classics from Ben Hur to the neo-baroque masterpieces of Federico Fellini. But now, following the third mysterious fire in six years, the drama at Rome’s Cinecittà studios appears to concern the site itself.

A dispute between studio workers, the government and the studio’s private majority owners has fuelled suspicions over the cause of the latest blaze, which tore through the set of Italian Big Brother on 15 December. Police are now investigating.

In July 2012 another fire swept through the site’s famous Teatro 5, Fellini’s studio of choice, just before the owners were due to meet with unions and workers. A blaze in 2007 destroyed sets of the BBC/HBO series Rome.

The battle for the heart and soul of Cinecittà, which was created to the south of the capital by Mussolini in 1937, comes as the private owners seek to develop the Cinecittà brand, and, according to the US entertainment weekly Variety, transfer some staff.

The plans come on the back of falling film production revenues. The government sold 80 per cent of its stake in the nearly bankrupt studios to private investors 16 years ago.

But despite government incentives, including a 25 per cent tax break, to attract film makers, Cinecittà has failed to see the benefit. Today the site, where Fellini shot La Dolce Vita and Satyricon, is more likely to host gala dinners and private parties than Oscar-winning film makers.

On Friday, the culture minister, Massimo Bray, joined Luigi Abete, the head of Italian Entertainment Group (IEG), which represents the owners, and Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, to thrash out an agreement on developing the site and on use of the Cinecittà brand for leisure services. The results – if any – of that meeting, which coincided with a Fellini commemoration, have not been announced.

Marcello Mastroianni and his Swedish colleague Anita Ekberg in Rome's famous 'Fontana di Trevi' during the filming of Federico Fellin's 'La Dolce Vita' Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in Rome's famous 'Fontana di Trevi' during the filming of Federico Fellin's 'La Dolce Vita' (AFP/Getty)
IEG points to plans for a hotel and a new studio, plus restaurants and underground parking, as evidence that it is serious about maintaining and improving the site. Critics, including workers, say the plans are further evidence of the private consortium’s plans for film production to take a back seat to corporate entertainment. The owners are also demanding a reduction in the €2.5m (£2m) annual rent.

Alberto Manzini, a spokesman for the CGIL union, told La Repubblica newspaper that the future of the site and even the future of Italian cinema was at risk following doubts over investment in production facilities. “It was expected there’d be a €7m investment for film production. But we still don’t know if anything’s been spent,” he said.

At last Friday’s meeting Mr Bray articulated the governments official line, that Cinecittà, a unique part of modern Italian artistic culture, must remain an important and viable film production site.

“This day, dedicated to Fellini, has allowed Cinecittà to reunite so many artists, who, like Fellini, are linked to the history of this place and who continue to ensure it lives with their film making,” Mr Bray said.

Actress Elizabeth Taylor filming the 1963 film 'Cleopatra' directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz Actress Elizabeth Taylor filming the 1963 film 'Cleopatra'; the film was partly shot at Cinecitta Studios
“We hope that Studio 5 can continue to attract for many years the creativity and passion of many Italian and international artists.”

On the Adriatic coast, the town of Rimini, Fellini’s birthplace, is holding Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations with giant video projections themed on the master director.

But in Rome, fans of Italian cinema are less sanguine. Unless the will – and money – from the private stakeholders is forthcoming, Cinecittà, the scene of so many cinematic triumphs, may yet become just another crumbling theme park.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice