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One of the first features to be produced at Cinecittà was Scipio Africanus (1937), which used 7,000 extras and dozens of live elephants during the Battle of Zama scenes.

How Did Cinecittà Get the Nickname “Hollywood on the Tiber”?

In the 1950s, U.S. film studios began to look to Europe as a backdrop for story lines and exotic locations. Given the scope of facilities available and planned, Cinecittà quickly became “The Studio” in Europe and soon earned the nickname “Hollywood on the Tiber.” It was the filming location for several large American film productions, including Roman Holiday (1953), Beat the Devil (1953) and The Barefoot Contessa (1954). One of the most famous and successful films of the decade, Ben-Hur (1959), was a product of Cinecittà. While using the City of Rome as a backdrop was advantageous, it was sometimes more convenient to rebuild portions of the Eternal City on the Cinecittà lot.

Success followed success into the next decade with international productions of Francis of Assisi (1961), Cleopatra (1963), The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968). During this time, a florid industry of gossip press and celebrity culture developed around the films produced at Cinecittà and their stars. More than 3,000 movies have been filmed at the studios, of which 90 received an Academy Award nomination and 47 of these won the coveted award.