Italy’s Cinecittà Studios is running at full occupancy levels and is on track to post a 2023 profit after breaking even this year, according to CEO Nicola Maccanico.
Speaking exclusively to Screen, Maccanico said Italy’s largest production hub is starting to reap the benefits of a €260m ($279m) investment from the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund.
The former Sky Italia and Warner Bros. senior exec joined Cinecittà in 2021 with a brief from Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini to use the EU funding to turn the facility into continental Europe’s top filming hub.
Founded in 1937, the sprawling production facilities are Italy’s biggest, and are representative of the golden age of post-war Italian cinema when the studios hosted features such as Ben Hur and La Dolce Vita.
“With production studios full and many productions in-house, Cinecittà is no longer a place of memories but the hub of a bright future,” Maccanico said.
Productions currently or set to start shooting at Cinecittà include Angelina Jolie’s Without Blood for Fremantle, Disney+ Italy’s Boris 4, the second season of Epix’s Domina, and a new Fandango production by Italian director Nanni Moretti.
Productions have also been attracted by Italy’s generous tax credits which were increased from 30% to 40% following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Maccanico is spearheading a revamp of Cinecittà, using the EU funding to restore the facility and build new studios.
“Our five-year industrial plan is very ambitious because I imagined the changes we needed to implement had to be quick as we needed to ride the waves of growth in the market,” Maccanico said. “I set very ambitious targets so as not to waste time.”
Maccanico forecasts Cinecittà will turn a profit in 2023. The company posted €16.4m ($17.6m) in revenues in 2021, almost double the previous year. “After almost six months of 2022, all the parameters we have show us to be in line with the business plan.”
Cinecittà has 19 production studios. A further five studios will be built within its existing site, Maccanico said. Eight more studios will be built on land that Cinecittà is in the process of acquiring in the nearby Torrespaccata area.
The Torrespaccata purchase will add 31 hectares to Cinecittà, from which 15 hectares will be used to house the eight new production studios. The remaining 16 hectares will be used as backlots. Overall, the revamp plan will add an additional 60% of production facility space at Cinecittà, bringing the overall total to 20,000 square metres.
A preliminary purchase agreement was signed for Torrespaccata in December and the acquisition is going “according to plan,” Maccanico said, with Cinecittà now awaiting archaeological and environmental impact evaluations before finalising the deal by the end of 2022 if no objections are raised. Cinecittà is aiming to complete the eight new studio builds by the end of 2026.
“Growth of our production capacity is very important, as a Cinecittà competing in the international market needs more space,” Maccanico said. “Today we have our Theatre 5 which totals 2,700 square metres, and this is the direction we are going in, towards ensuring very large studios.”
Maccanico said the company had just issued a new tender bid for the construction of an additional 3,500 square-metre production studio. As well as studios, Maccanico is also focusing on providing tech services including VR motion capture, green screens, LED walls, high-quality post production services, and an interior water tank.
Its studios are running at 100% occupancy for this year and for most of 2023, with many requests already coming in for 2024, Maccanico noted, adding that 70% of the productions currently in-house are international shoots.
“Cinecittà is alive and operational,” Maccanico said. “Cinecittà today is full, and so we can stop using the future tense when talking about its success.”
The executive said it did not make sense to strike more wide-scale agreements similar to the five-year pact Cinecittà drew up with Fremantle, which involve the ongoing rental of six of the main production studios, until the hub expanded it production capacity.
“We may be open to other agreements like this in the future when Cinecittà reaches its final size, but at this point in time it is not necessary,” Maccanico added.
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