Rome’s Cinecittà Studios have provided the sets for some of the most famous movies in Western cinema: William Wyler’s Ben-Hur, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III, Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient, Roberto Benini’s Life Is Beautiful, and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, to name just a few. Today, however, the studios are occupied not by a film crew making a big-budget blockbuster, but by a group of striking workers.
The roughly 200 workers have been camped out there for 77 days so far, protesting a planned reorganization of Cinecittà that they fear will result in them losing their jobs. The €175 million ($227 million) plan calls for building a movie theme park on the site, as well as a deluxe hotel and spa for visiting film crews. Cinecittà’s management company says it need to do something to boost the studio’s revenue in the face of a changing (read: shrinking) film industry and increased competition from cheaper production studios around the world.
These are valid concerns, but the workers fear this means the studio is beginning to move away from doing what it was actually created to do: producing films. “When a filmmaker comes to Cinecitta to make a film, they don’t want to stay out here, they stay in the center,” Stefano Ballirano, one of the striking workers, told the Hollywood Reporter. “If the goal is really to emphasize the movie-making side, then do they really need a parking garage with space for 6,000 cars?”
BBC News also points out that Cinecittà’s land, on the outskirts of the Italian capital, is increasingly valuable, and the workers fear it may eventually be sold to developers. At that point it’s not a far stretch to imagine the legendary studios turning into a Disney-fied parody of their former selves in the wrong hands.