Cinema and Media Studies Cinecittà Studios
by
Pierluigi Erbaggio
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0208

Introduction

Historically, the Cinecittà Studios, commonly referred to as Cinecittà (“Cinema City”), have been considered the most important Italian film studio complex. Cinecittà, which is located in the southeastern area of Rome, opened in 1937 under the direction of Luigi Freddi, the Fascist general director of cinematography. The studios have gone through various phases of success and decline, passing from the initial public ownership in the 1930s to the partnership between private investors and the Italian state in the early 21st century. During the Fascist regime, Cinecittà was the undisputed center of Italian cinema. After a period of closure immediately following World War II, Cinecittà became known as the “Hollywood on the Tiber” during the 1950s and 1960s because of the large number of American film productions, mostly historical and biblical costume dramas such as Quo Vadis (1951), and the numerous Italian productions of spaghetti westerns and comedies. During those years, important Italian directors, including Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti, also worked on their films in the Roman facility. Especially in the 1960s, a florid industry of gossip press and celebrity culture developed around the films produced at Cinecittà and the star system these generated. Throughout the 1970s and until the mid-1980s, the films produced at Cinecittà declined dramatically to only ten to fifteen per year. Economic factors and the rise of private television channels are usually cited for the decline of Italian film productions. Despite important works, such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976), Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) and Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) and E la nave va (1983), the demise of the Cinecittà Studios seemed inevitable. The introduction of television productions and a reorganization of the facilities helped stimulate the studio’s renewal at the beginning of the 1990s. Today, more than 3000 films have been produced at the studio, including some recent international successes, such as Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002) and Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (2008); numerous Italian TV series, shows, and commercials have been filmed there; and a museum with permanent exhibits invites visitors to the grounds. Cinecittà has thus repositioned itself at the center of the Italian entertainment industry. As part of this reorganization, Cinecittà absorbed the film company Istituto Luce (acronym for L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa, or Educational Film Union), which was created in 1924 and whose production is inextricably connected to the Fascist propaganda of its first twenty years of existence. Despite such a long history and its centrality in the Italian film industry, very few scholarly publications, particularly in English, have focused on Cinecittà. Therefore, in addition to the current scholarship on Cinecittà and Istituto Luce, this article will concentrate on those topics in Italian cinema for which Cinecittà could be a fruitful starting point for further research.

General Overviews

The key works on Cinecittà Studios are book-length historical analyses in Italian and collections of archival material. Except for Fellini 1989, which is a translation of an antecedent Italian volume, there are no extensive treatments of Cinecittà in English. Mariotti 1989 is the most complete text on the work done at Cinecittà. The fact that the book was commissioned and published by the Italian prime minister’s office and bears an introductory note by Francesco Cossiga, the president of the Italian Republic at the time, denotes the centrality of the public sector in Italian cinema and in the history of Cinecittà in particular. Montini and Natta 2007 addresses this public–private connection directly. Savio 1979 and Kezich 1999 provide an interesting perspective on the work done at Cinecittà in two very specific periods, respectively, the Fascist era, and the years (1959–1961) when La Dolce Vita was produced (1960). Although many of the references cited in this article attempt to cover the entire history of Cinecittà, specifically its most important productions (e.g., Mariotti and Siniscalchi 1995), little attention has been given to the period of decline of the Italian studios. Additionally, except for Laura 1986, scholars have not focused extensively on the complex history of the Cinevillaggio, the small studio complex organized, mostly in the area of Venice, to replace Cinecittà during the Salò Republic period, between 1943 and 1945. Moreover, Steimatsky 2009 is the only scholarly exploration of the post–World War II conversion of Cinecittà into a refugee camp (see also Bertozzi and Steimatsky 2012, cited under Media and Online Resources). Finally, Martin 2012 studies the equally little-known architectural genesis of the Cinecittà studios.

  • Del Buono, Oreste, and Lietta Tornabuoni, eds. Era Cinecittà: Vita, morte e miracoli di una fabbrica di film. Milan: Bompiani, 1979.

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    A history of Cinecittà that includes original texts and reproductions of accounts and stories about the studios by actors, directors, and workers. The nostalgic tone of the volume reflects the precarious state of Cinecittà at the time of publication.

  • Fellini, Federico. Cinecittà. Translated by Graham Fawcett. London: Studio Vista, 1989.

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    Fellini’s tale of his love for Cinecittà. Between a history of the Italian studios and an autobiography, the volume, rich in illustrations, offers a perspective on Cinecittà from the auteur who more than anyone else had a special relationship with the studio complex. Originally published in Italian as Un regista a Cinecittà (Milan: Mondadori, 1988).

  • Freddi, Luigi. Il cinema: Il governo dell’immagine. Rome: Gremese, 1994.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this volume, Luigi Freddi chronicles the history of Italian cinema from the mid-1930s to the post–World War II period. The volume includes information regarding the creation of Cinecittà, Istituto Luce, and the Centro Sperimentale. Originally published in two volumes as Il cinema (Rome: L’Arnia, 1949).

  • Kezich, Tullio. Primavera a Cinecittà: Il cinema italiano alla svolta della “Dolce vita.” Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 1999.

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    A collection of articles that the author wrote for the weekly Settimo giorno between 1959 and 1961. It provides a privileged perspective on one of the most productive periods of Cinecittà around the time of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1960.

  • Laura, Ernesto. L’immagine bugiarda: Mass media e spettacolo nella Repubblica di Salò (1943–1945). Rome: ANCCI, 1986.

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    Not easily available, this volume is a useful overview on the history of the Cinevillaggio, which replaced Cinecittà during the Salò Republic. The volume is rich in archival information.

  • Mariotti, Franco, ed. Cinecittà tra cronaca e storia, 1937–1989. 2 vols. Rome: Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, 1989.

    E-mail Citation »

    In two volumes, a history of Cinecittà with archival documents and testimonials and a list of all the productions made at the Italian film complex from its founding to 1989, including Italian and non-Italian works. The beautifully illustrated volumes were conceived as a celebration of Cinecittà’s fifty years of existence.

  • Mariotti, Franco, and Claudio Siniscalchi. Il mito di Cinecittà. Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1995.

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    A history of Cinecittà that focuses on the myth of the Italian studios through a review of the most important films and genres. The book, richly illustrated, includes a special chapter on Federico Fellini and one on Luigi Freddi.

  • Martin, Sara. “Cinecittà: Genesi ed elaborazione del progetto della Città del Cinema.” Bianco e Nero 573 (May–August 2012): 72–81.

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    This article focuses on the history of Cinecittà from a structural and architectural perspective. The author reconstructs the events leading to the building of the Italian studios, with particular attention to architect Gino Peressutti’s work.

  • Montini, Franco, and Enzo Natta. Una poltrona per due: Cinecittà tra pubblico e privato. Turin, Italy: Effatà Editrice, 2007.

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    The most recent history of Cinecittà, from an institutional perspective. This short volume offers relevant information regarding public–private partnership in the early 21st century and the collaboration with the State of Italy that has characterized Cinecittà for most of its existence.

  • Savio, Francesco. Cinecittà anni trenta: Parlano 116 protagonisti del secondo cinema italiano (1930–1943). 3 vols. Edited by Tullio Kezich. Rome: Bulzoni, 1979.

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    An important collection of interviews between the author and the protagonists of Italian cinema during the Fascist period. The list of interviewees, ordered alphabetically, includes actors, directors, writers, producers, technicians, and government officials, thus providing crucial information on various topics, such as stardom, cinema history, and production practices.

  • Steimatsky, Noa. “The Cinecittà Refugee Camp (1944–1950).” October 128 (Spring 2009): 23–50.

    DOI: 10.1162/octo.2009.128.1.22E-mail Citation »

    A crucial essay on the transformation of the movie studios into a large refugee camp during the years following World War II. The article also focuses on the allegorical and figurative links between the camp and the emerging neorealist season.

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