ROME – A total of 85 days after they first went on strike, workers at Rome’s famous Cinecitta Studios on Friday agreed to go back to work -- at least temporarily.
Around 200 workers at Cinecitta walked off the job July 4 to protest against owners’ €175 million ($228 million) plan to upgrade the studios with a luxury hotel, large parking area, new office space, and a day spa, based on fears that the 75-year-old studios would evolve into a kind of film museum rather than working film studios. They say they want assurances their jobs won’t be eliminated.
Studio owners say the plans will make Cinecitta a more attractive destination for international projects. But they are reportedly unwilling to guarantee anyone’s job going forward.
Since the strike began, workers have camped out in front of the studios adorned with a banner reading “Cinecitta Okkupata” -- a play on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. The workers have earned some high-level allies in revered auteurs Ettore Scola and Oscar-winner Bernardo Bertolucci, who have launched a petition to oppose any plan to deemphasize the film side of operations.
The fate of the upgrade plan and workers’ demands have not been solved, but workers have agreed to go back to work after project agreements were signed with U.S.-based digital post-production company Deluxe, which announced its own set of layoffs in August, and with Panalight, and Italian cinema and television technical support company that operates in Rome, Milan, and in Romania. It is not immediately clear what film project the work deals are connected to, if any.
Officially, Friday’s end to the strike is a “suspension,” meaning it could start again once the work with Deluxe and Panalight is completed. But workers, who marched in the area Thursday after the close of talks aimed at resolving the crisis with the Ministry of Culture, said they are hoping the deals will be a catalyst for a breakthrough in talks that will allow them to stay on the job.
The fate of Cinecitta is an emotional one in Italy. The studios have been part of the production of scores of classic films, ranging from William Wyler’s Ben-Hur and La Dolce Vita from Federico Fellini to Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and the HBO series Rome.
The studios are a source of pride for many in Italy, and, at 75, they are also the oldest studios in Europe, harkening back to the days when Rome was known as "Hollywood on the Tiber" and was a chic destination spot for the brightest stars in the film word. But Cinecitta has struggled with rising costs and increased competition from the globalization of the film industry, and the number of projects produced from the studios has trailed off dramatically in recent years.