Cinecittà Studios Chief Nicola Maccanico Talks Modified Revamp Plan, Impact of U.S. Strikes (EXCLUSIVE)

Rome’s Cinecittà Studios are in the midst of a radical overhaul that started in June 2021, when the government-owned facilities, headed by Nicola Maccanico — who is a former Warner Bros. and Sky Italia senior exec — secured a multi-million dollar loan provided by the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund to upgrade and expand the studios.

Productions that recently set up camp on its iconic backlot, lured in part by Italy’s generous 40% cash-back tax credit, include Roland Emmerich’s gladiator series “Those About to Die,” which is currently shooting, and Luca Guadagnino’s recently wrapped William Burroughs adaptation “Queer” starring Daniel Craig. The Cinecittà revamp plan originally entailed an expansion through a deal to acquire a 76-acre plot of land adjacent to the studios on which eight additional sound stages were meant to be built. However, this deal has been halted in recent months after part of the land was found to contain archaeological artifacts that prevent construction.

Below, Maccanico speaks to Variety about how the Cinecittà revamp is proceeding under the new circumstances.

The word out there is that Cinecittà’s revamp plan is being scaled back. What’s going on?

The right word is a re-think. The Cinecittà plan is moving forward at full steam. In June, we signed contracts for construction of five new soundstages, plus for the refurbishment of four existing theaters that will grow Cinecittà’s production capacity by 60%. So, we are going to expand our studio space from the current 18,000 square meters (more than 19,000 square feet) to 30,000 square meters (more than 32,000 square feet). So the Cinecittà plan is not just working well and getting good traction, the growth is also proceeding at a fast clip.

Still, the expansion plan has ground to a halt.

What happened is that it has been decided to remove the development of the new land from the EU recovery plan funding. That portion of the plan will be discussed separately. For the moment, it’s been put on hold. So Cinecittà’s growth continues. But the second phase of that growth has been put on hold. It will be decided at a later date.

Could the land be used just as backlot?

It’s premature to talk about this, but I’m not ruling that possibility out.

Is the government’s investment in Cinecittà through the EU recovery fund staying unvaried?

No, it will be reduced. The current proposal is for the investment to decrease from €260 million ($285 million) to €220 million ($241 million). That’s obviously because, for the moment, we are not developing facilities on a new plot of land. But it’s a rather small reduction. The other thing I want to underline is that with the green light for new soundstages to be built, we are now actually making the investment. It’s not theoretical, it’s for real.

What’s the planned completion date for the new soundstages, which will take the total number to 24?

June 30, 2026.

Let’s talk about bookings. Is Cinecittà currently fully booked?

We are at 80% capacity, which for soundstages basically amounts to full capacity, since they are not hotels. As you can imagine, there is some down time between one production and the subsequent one.

What are the prospects going forward, also factoring in the potential impact of the two ongoing strikes (writers and actors) in the U.S.?

The prospects for the fourth quarter of this year are very good, even though we have perceived a slowdown in recent weeks. That said, if the strike doesn’t drag on too long we think it will have a limited impact on our business. We think that for Cinecittà, 2023 will be a better year in terms of our revenue growth than 2022 [which marked the first year the studio turned a profit in more than a decade].

Have any productions stopped stopped shooting at Cinecittà due to the U.S. strikes?

No, nothing has stopped. But there has been a bit of a slowdown for the months of August and September. Nothing that was already shooting [including Roland Emmerich’s gladiator series “Those About to Die”] ground to a halt. But the start of some productions has been delayed.

Meanwhile, Franco Tunisian film and TV entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar has announced a plan to buy a plot of land and build new studios in Rome. And he’s mentioned that he would like to call them Cinecittà 2 and proposed a collaboration. What’s your response?

I think it’s great news that Ben Ammar wants to invest in Italy. I believe in competition and I think it can grow the market. That said, we have no intention of sharing our brand. And there are no talks underway regarding possible collaborations.

The government is going to make some tweaks to Italy’s tax credit. Can you tell me what they are and whether they could impact foreign productions?

I’m not going to go into the specifics, which are still being worked out. But I will say this: Italy’s tax credit is a tool that has worked very well in recent years. It has prompted a growth in production and has created more jobs. It’s been particularly successful in attracting foreign productions and investments and therefore it’s been a driver for the Italian market thanks to injections of foreign capital. The ongoing evolution of this tool aims to make it stronger within the logic of building an industry, growing the market and creating more jobs both through local productions and foreign investments. This basic principle will be strengthened.

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