Rome's Cinecitta Studios is aggressively pursuing itsplans for expansion and, after buying two Italian studios, is soon set to moveinto Eastern Europe and North Africa.

"We are nowlooking for a winter studio with mountains in Eastern Europe and a summerstudio with a desert in Morocco or Tunisia," Cinecitta Studios director ofmarketing Carole-Andre Smith.said.

"Everyother week someone from Cinecitta is travelling to North Africa and EasternEurope and visiting new studios, old studios, historical studios and land fromLithuania to Bulgaria and every country in between," Andre-Smith said.

Cinecitta hasalready just acquired for Euros 30m ($37m) its Italian rival, Roma Studios,which was built by producer Dino De Laurentiis in the 1960s and renovated andre-opened in September 2002, after lying abandoned for over 10 years.

Roma Studios,which is headed by Tarak Ben Ammar, is situated in the countryside outside Romeand strategically located near the sea, countryside and mountains. It has fivestages and a sprawling back lot, where Cinecitta plans to operate a theme parkand cinema museum.

Roma Studios andCinecitta are now both preparing to host Brian De Palma's upcoming movie, The Black Dahlia.

On Tuesday,Cinecitta also played host to Silvio Berlusconi, who visited the set of Rome,the big-budget HBO- BBC-RAI series that is currently shooting at the studio.

Cinecitta, whosepartners include producer Aurelio De Laurentiis and entrepreneur Diego dellaValle, is now also in the process of buying Terni Studios, which housed RobertoBenigni's Oscar winner Life is Beautiful and Pinocchio.

Benigni is apartner of Terni Studios, which is located in the Umbria region near Rome, andis owned by the local authorities. Benigni's production company, MelampoCinematografica, has an ongoing contract with the Umbrian studio, and Cinecittaexpects to keep Benigni on the Terni Studios' board of directors as a silentpartner.

"It's allreally part of our plan to become a European hub. We bought Roma Studios andTerni Studios because we needed more space, so that we could give producers abetter deal both in terms of price and time," said Andre-Smith.

Like Cinecitta,the UK's Ealing Studios also recently announced plans to expand into EasternEurope. Ealing is part of a consortium planning to bid for Bulgaria's BoyanaFilm Studios, the Eastern European country's leading film production complex,which is expected to be privatised by the end of this year.