Summing up its effect on his creative juices, the Italian film director Federico Fellini described Rome’s Cinecitta studios as “my ideal world, the cosmic space before the big bang”.
But the legendary 40-hectare (100-acre) lot built by Mussolini, which became a home from home for Hollywood stars in the 1950s and 60s, is now fighting for its future.
With productions heading east to cheaper locations such as Hungary, the studio where the classics Ben-Hur and Roman Holiday – and more recently Gangs of New York – were shot has seen its earnings shrink.
It is now pinning its hopes for income on an amusement park, hotel and spa being built on the site where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor smooched while shooting Cleopatra in 1963.
Times have also changed in the centre of Rome. Tourists attempting a tour of real locations today discover that the garret where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn fell in love in Roman Holiday is in a state of disrepair.
The final straw this week for Italy’s cinema establishment was the slashing of funding to the national archive of 100,000 prewar and postwar cinema newsreels, including Mussolini’s 1940 declaration of war, housed at Cinecitta and now risking closure.