Production company. The studio that would remain one of the pillars of the Italian film industry during its first half century, albeit with a number of near deaths and resuscitations, Cines was born in April 1906 out of Alberini & Santoni, the company with which Filoteo Alberini produced the first Italian feature film, La presa di Roma (The Taking of Rome, 1905). With the backing of the Bank of Rome and expertise from a number of technicians poached from the French Pathe, Cines rapidly expanded to become the foremost film producer in Italy, turning out a weekly supply of quality films. Under the guidance of Mario Caserini, who had joined the company as an actor in 1905 but had quickly taken the reins as artistic director, the company produced films across a wide variety of genres, from "actualities," documentaries, and hundreds of sketches by its resident comic, Ferdinand Guillame, under the name Tontolini, to historical costume dramas and literary and theatrical adaptations. From 1910 onward it achieved a special reputation for colossal Roman epics and ancient world spectacles such as Brutus (1910), Messalina (1910), La sposa del Nilo (The Bride of the Nile, 1911), Quo vadis? (1912), and Marcantonio e Cleopatra (Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, 1913), all directed by painter-turned-director Enrico Guazzoni. By 1911, run by a board of management headed by Baron Alberto Fassini and that included the cream of Roman nobility and industry, Cines was exporting its films all over the world, with subsidiaries in Paris, London, Barcelona, Moscow, and Berlin, and offices in New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Yokohama, and Hong Kong.
   Nevertheless, after a decade of almost unmitigated success during which it had produced over 1,500 films and achieved international renown, the Cines suffered, along with all the other companies, in the crisis that engulfed the Italian film industry in the period immediately following World War I. In 1919, together with most of the other major Italian studios, it merged into the ill-fated Unione Cinematografica Italiana (UCI), a consortium headed, for a period, by Baron Fassini himself. Poor overall management and a retrograde policy of too many costly remakes of Roman epics, which had made the fortune of the industry a decade earlier but which were no longer viable, led to the collapse of the UCI and of the Cines with it. By the mid-1920s the company's Roman studios in Via Veio were either inactive or hired out to foreign companies.
   The company received a new lease on life when entrepreneur Stefano Pittaluga bought up the UCI's assets in 1926 and, with great intelligence and foresight, began to renew the old Cines studios, equipping them with Photophone RCA sound recording equipment. The new Cines, with Pittaluga as general manager, was officially inaugurated in May 1930 by the minister for corporations, Giuseppe Bottai, indicating a new willingness by the Fascist government to support the Italian film industry. The farsighted Pittaluga immediately began to invite directors like Alessandro Blasetti, who had remained in Italy, and others such as Guido Brignone and Gennaro Righelli, who had left to work abroad, to join the company and to utilize its studios. Beginning with the first Italian sound film, La canzone dell'amore (The Song of Love, 1930), directed by Gennaro Righelli—the first sound film actually shot was Resurrectio, directed by Blasetti, but it was not released until 1931—the Cines studios became the center of Italian sound film production in the early 1930s.
   Pittaluga's untimely death in 1931, at the age of 44, led to the artistic direction of the company being entrusted to Emilio Cecchi. A literary critic, poet, translator, and art historian who had become fascinated with cinema while teaching in America, Cecchi encouraged all sorts of quality films at Cines, with a special place reserved for documentaries (which to this point had been the exclusive province of the Istituto LUCE). Under Cecchi's guidance the Cines experienced a golden period, producing a long series of fine documentaries and several landmark feature films, the most notable being Blasetti's 1860, a film about Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign and his decisive victory at the battle of Calatifimi. A number of foreign directors also came to work at the Cines, such as the German director Walter Ruttmann, who directed Acciaio (Steel, 1933), and Max Ophiils, who made the much-acclaimed La Signora di Tutti (Everybody's Woman) at the Cines studios in 1934. Nevertheless, by 1934 Cecchi had left the studio to pursue his literary interests. Ludovico Toeplitz had also resigned as general director, and competition from a number of other studios that had set up in the meantime had begun to undermine the Cines' viability. For a brief period control of the company passed into the hands of industrialist Carlo Roncoroni, who nurtured plans for building a larger and more modern studio complex. However, on 26 September 1935 a mysterious fire destroyed much of the studio's facilities. In the wake of the disaster, Roncoroni accepted a proposal from Luigi Freddi, head of the government's newly established Direzione Generale della Cinematografia, for a project that would result, only two years later, in the new studio complex of Cinecitta, inaugurated by Mussolini in person. With the opening of Cinecitta, Cines and its studios were downgraded and either ceased production or were rented out to other companies.
   In 1942 the Cines was reconstituted under state control and its studios used to make a number of films, the most significant being Blasetti's Quattro passi fra le nuvole (A Stroll through the Clouds, 1942) and Mario Bonnard's Avanti c'e posto (Before the Postman, 1942). However, following Italy's signing of the armistice in November 1943, many of the facilities were dismantled and appropriated by retreating Fascist forces, with the intention of setting up a new center of film production in Venice.
   In the postwar period the Cines was reconstituted as a state-owned company in 1949 and was home to a significant number of productions and coproductions, including Pietro Germi's Il brigante di Tacca del Lupo (The Brigand of Tacca del Lupo, 1952) and Blasetti's Altri tempi (Times Gone By, 1952) and Tempi nostri (A Slice of Life, 1954). However, with increased competition from Cinecitta and a host of new companies and studios, the Cines was definitively closed down in 1956, drawing the curtain on a long and illustrious history.

Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. . 2010.

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