The studios were founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini and his head of cinema Luigi Freddi for propaganda purposes, under the slogan "Il cinema è l'arma più forte" (Cinema is the most powerful weapon). The studios were bombed by the Western Allies during World War II. In the 1950s, Cinecittà was the filming location for several large American film productions like Ben-Hur, and then became the studio most closely associated with Federico Fellini.
After a period of near-bankruptcy in the 1980s, Cinecittà was privatized by the Italian government.
On August 9, 2007, a fire destroyed about 3000 m² (32,000 sq. ft.) of the Cinecittà lot and surroundings. The historic part that houses the sets of classics such as Ben-Hur were not damaged, however a good portion of the original sets from the HBO/BBC series Rome were destroyed.
As the home of Italian cinema, Cinecittà has seen the production of many classic films such as La dolce vita and Satyricon.
Since the days of Ben Hur, the studios have welcomed international productions including Helen of Troy (1956), Francis of Assisi (1962), Cleopatra (1963), The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), Fellini's Casanova (1981), Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968), La Traviata (1982) and many other grand film productions. Recent films include Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Cinecittà also hosts TV productions, such as Grande Fratello, the Italian version of Big Brother, where the Big Brother house is built on Cinecittà's premises. It has also been home to the filming of the Passion of the Christ, starring James Caviezel and directed by Mel Gibson.
In addition, the BBC/HBO series Rome was filmed there from 2004-2007, the show being widely acclaimed for its sets and designs. BBC Wales reused some of these sets for an episode of the 2008 series of Doctor Who set in ancient Pompeii.
- ^ "Fire torches film sets at Rome's historic Cinecitta". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-08-10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2007/08/10/cinecitta-studio-fire.html. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
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