Mayor of Rome on Turning the Eternal City Into a “Global Capital of Cinema”

Not since the days of Ben-Hur, Cleopatra and Fellini classics like La Dolce Vita has Rome enjoyed the boom in film production it’s experiencing at the moment. From Tom Cruise racing through the eternal city’s narrow streets in Mission Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, to Matteo Garrone’s Oscar-nominated immigrant drama Lo Capitano, the Italian capital is in the midst of a resurgence that harkens back to its “Hollywood on the Tiber” heyday.

At the center of all this activity is Cinecitta, the famed studio facility that now, after years of dormancy, is operating at 100 percent capacity thanks to a number of technical upgrades, increased studio space and a tax incentive that offers producers a 40 percent rebate on production expenditures. The studio has recently hosted a number of high-profile productions, including Luca Guadagnino’s Queer, based on the William S. Burroughs novel of the same name and starring Daniel Craig, Roland Emmerich’s upcoming gladiator series Those About to Die, starring Anthony Hopkins, and Jo Wright’s eight-episode limited series M: Son of the Century, about the early years of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

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As the mayor of Italy’s capital city, Roberto Gualtieri has played a key role in the resurgence by both raising the city’s profile as an attractive, efficient shooting destination and investing in the necessary infrastructure to make it sustainable

Gualtieri, who was a semi-professional Bossa nova musician before moving into politics, recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter over Zoom from the THR Roma headquarters in Rome about the various factors driving the current boom, what Lo Capitano’s Oscar nomination means to Italy and his recent trip to L.A. to promote Rome to Hollywood insiders and attend the Golden Globes ceremony.

How has Cinecitta become so busy so quickly — two years ago the studio was at 30 percent occupancy and now it is at 100 percent, correct?

Rome is seeing a renaissance that [is similar] to the golden age of cinema. It is one of the global capital cities of cinema. We are trying to re-launch Roma overall as a city of innovation and sustainability. The role of cinema is very important for this. I think the reason [for the resurgence] is very practical because when I was finance minister, along with my colleagues, we decided to create a very powerful tax credit. So we made a policy decision to invest in audiovisual industries, and to make the tax credit more powerful and effective. And of course, this creates a big incentive to shoot in Rome because there is the tax credit but also at the local level there was a big investment to make Cinecitta bigger because, as you said, we are at 100 percent capacity. Rome is also a very good set — In 2023 we gave permission to shoot outside [in the city]. Which means that every day there are six shoots in the streets of Rome at the same time. Eighty-three films and 66 series shot in Rome in 2023 because of this authorization.

It must be extremely complicated to to shoot something like the car chase in Mission Impossible in Rome. What is that permission process like? Has it been streamlined?

I can give you concrete examples. For Fast X we decided to create a task force just to make it easier for them. Because it’s very complicated especially when you have explosions – you have to negotiate about the preservation of monuments, but that of course is the reason they want to come here. It wasn’t simple but everything was successful, so we decided to put more people in this office to streamline the procedure. It’s not simple to shoot in an ancient area where there are monuments. But that is why we dedicated so much time and energy because we think it’s a very good thing for such a blockbuster to shoot in Rome. Imagine six shoots every day in the city. The problem of traffic in Rome is a big problem, as it is in most capital cities. But in a sense Rome is similar to Los Angeles — it is very big but not densely populated. Rome is about ten times bigger than Paris but only has 2.8 million inhabitants. We are investing in infrastructure of mobility — we are re-doing the metro, the tram, the streets. We are doing a lot to address the traffic. We are trying to modernize the city and make it more green with less pollution. This is another area we are investing in.

What are you doing to address environmental concerns as you expand as a shooting location?

We have been selected [by the EU] as one of the 100 European cities that will have to reach carbon neutrality. We have just updated our climate plan and we will [target] a 66.6 percent carbon reduction by 2030. This includes at the [film] studios — they must have a low carbon footprint. So in every area we are working on mitigation and adaptation. Climate policy for us is at the center of everything. It has to be. Cinecitta has equipped itself with a dedicated program, Cinecitta Regeneration, a series of measures and policies based on scientific principles and international standards, with the aim not only of progressively reducing environmental impact and achieving zero net emissions before 2050, but also the more ambitious one of implementing a circular and regenerative approach. For the next few years, Cinecitta wants to be a model for the entire creative industry and for a green and sustainable path to audiovisual production. A sustainable approach, which also touches on the theme of inclusiveness.

Amid all this activity you also have initiatives to train production workers?

Yes, with our next generation program along with [film school] the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia we are training experts in various sectors of the audiovisual industry. We consider, and the seems to data confirm, that investment in cinema is a powerful multiplier. It’s a multiplier of three to one. If you invest one euro of resources, you have an effect on the economy. You get more benefit than the cost of the investment.

Has the boom in production impacted tourism?

People and tourists are used to seeing the Rome of movies. The stereotypical Rome of good food, wine, and the Colosseum, the old blockbusters have carved into the unconscious. [But] Rome is becoming a great technology city with the most advanced 5G network in the world that will allow you to connect to the entertainment of this great open-air museum. The 31 contemporary cinema events during the summer satisfy the tastes of all citizens and tourists because they are very thematic and in the original language.

How much of the three billion euro budget for the Jubilee in 2025 is designated to culture? (The Jubilee is an event that happens every 25 years in which Catholics make a pilgrimage to The Vatican and Rome.)

The public money is 1.3 billion euros so we have some money for culture. The Jubilee money is more for infrastructure and logistics. Cinecitta is one of our big investments. [Another investment] is the Testaccio district which will be become in a huge cultural center. [In the fall last year the municipality announced a second wave of urban regeneration for the area that will also see the establishment of the new Academy of Fine Arts.]

You are part of the democratic party, but Italy is governed by a conservative party. Have you had any problems with funding your various projects from the conservative government?

I am a democrat. So of course we have different views — we have different views culturally and institutionally. There is cooperation because I am also the government commissioner for the Jubilee, so in this area of investment we don’t have any practical problems. I disagree with the government on policy issues because I am a progressive, but there is not a fight, or war let’s say, to prevent me from doing these things. I don’t feel endangered by what I’m doing.

There’s no meddling by the government into the affairs of Rome and what you’re trying to do?

In some areas we may [disagree], but on the main things I can’t say I am under attack. Of course I disagree with some of the things they are doing and they are not happy with some of the more social or let’s say more progressive things [I’m doing]. In some thing we have far, far different views.

What does the Oscar nomination for Lo Capitano mean for you and for Italy?

It’s fantastic. I am so happy because [director] Matteo [Garrone] deserves this. This is a masterpiece. It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in years. It’s really a film that needed to be done. It’s a film that’s necessary. He actually shows the reality [of immigration]. It’s a fantastic movie because it is realistic and poetic at the same time. He’s made a poem of reality. It is a masterpiece of art. So we are very happy for him, for Rome, but also because this is an important film. It was morally, or ethically necessary to make such a movie. There’s also C’è ancora domani [There’s Still Tomorrow, Paola Cortellesi’s directorial debut about women gaining the right to vote in Italy that became the highest-grossing film in Italy in 2023]. This is a black and white movie about violence toward women, and It became a movie adored by critics but also the public, beating out Barbie at the box office.

You were recently in Los Angeles where you attended the Golden Globes. Can you talk a little about that experience?

The concentration of every actor, of every director I’ve loved as a lover of cinema was there in the same room. It was really, really impressive. I was there of course to support Matteo. It was a fantastic experience, very funny. I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of very interesting people.

Any good celebrity interactions?

To be introduced and to say hi to Dua Lipa, it was a great pleasure and honor because she is a singer I like very much. She is a very nice person and very kind. I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people there. I’m not one who does a lot of socializing but it was very special.

Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you would like to mention?

The other thing that I would like to talk about is the future. The stereotypical Rome of good food, wine, and the Colosseum [from old movies] have been carved into the unconscious. [But] Rome is becoming a great technology city with the most advanced 5G network in the world that will allow you to connect to the entertainment of this great open-air museum. The 31 contemporary cinema events during the summer satisfy the tastes of all. Cinema is a big part of the past and future.

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