The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

Oft-delayed Italian movie theme park set to finally open

Cinecitta World will open with only eight of the 38 attractions originally planned for the 60-acre park

After more than a decade of delays and doubts, a richly detailed Italian theme park will soon conjure up the cinematic worlds of "Ben Hur," "Dante's Inferno" and "Gangs of New York."

Located about 10 miles south of Rome, the $300-million Cinecitta World movie theme park is expected to open in July with a limited but world-class lineup of roller coasters and dark rides based on some of the 3,000 films and television shows produced by Italy's Cinecitta Studios.

First conceived in 2003 and initially announced in 2009, Cinecitta World became so tangled in bureaucratic red tape and beset by repeated setbacks that it seemed the over-the-top designs created for the cinema-centric park might never make it off the drawing board.

Indeed, most theme parks look good on paper. It doesn't cost much to hire an artist to conjure up a fantastical fantasy world designed solely to secure financing. As a result, countless theme parks never make it past the concept art stage. Those that do face the challenge of living up to that original hype. All too often, the brick and mortar reality fails to match the pen and ink dream.

Jaw-dropping online photos suggest the under-construction park may yet live up to those lofty expectations -- but Cinecitta World still has a long way to go. Officials have announced Cinecitta World will open with only eight of the 38 attractions originally planned for the 60-acre park while proposals for a second park, a studio backlot and a shopping center remain in the formative stages.

Conceived as an Italian take on Universal Studios, Cinecitta World looks like a fever-dream of D.W. Griffith and Federico Fellini with rides and attractions themed to an opulent and mind-blowing blend of science fiction, Bollywood and epic movies.

Designed by Oscar-winning art director Dante Ferretti, the creative and detailed attractions feature massive reproductions of space ships, submarines and elephants. Visitors will enter the park through the child-sacrificing saber-toothed mouth of the Temple of Moloch, inspired by the 1914 Italian silent film “Cabiria.” Inside the front gate, the park’s main promenade will be fashioned after Martin Scorsese's “Gangs of New York” epic historical drama.

The headliner among a marquee lineup of rides has to be the 10-inversion Intamin steel coaster, featuring a quadruple heart-line roll and a double corkscrew. The science fiction-themed Cinecitta coaster was devised as a rival to the 10-inversion Colossus at the United Kingdom’s Thorpe Park. Since then, the roller coaster record for most inversions has been topped by Smiler at the U.K.’s Alton Towers, with an astonishing 14 inversions.

Cinecitta’s state-of-the-art motion simulator-based dark ride is expected to be similar to Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal’s Island of Adventure, two of the most technically advanced theme park rides in the world. Visitors will enter the “Dante’s Inferno” dark ride through an entrance that warns, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The park’s immersive tunnel attraction will be designed by UK-based Simworx, a manufacturer of 4-D special effects cinemas and simulators. The secretive Cinecitta attraction is expected to be similar to the King Kong 360 3-D attraction on the backlot tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, which features a massive drive-through movie experience with wraparound screens.

An indoor family drop coaster built by Switzerland-based Intamin will be similar to Thirteen at Alton Towers. A drop coaster features a free-fall section where the train and track vertically descend more than 10 feet before riders continue on their journey.

The planned panoramic flight simulator is widely expected to replicate the Soarin’ rides found at Disney theme parks around the world. A flight simulator blends the sensation of hang gliding with a wrap-around domed theater screen for a panoramic cinematic tour.

The new park will also be home to the world’s longest Mack Rides SuperSplash water coaster. Similar to Atlantica at Germany’s Europa Park, the 1,800-foot-long roller coaster-boat ride will feature an entrance modeled on the Roman architecture in the 1959 epic “Ben-Hur.”

In a tribute to Bollywood, a 180-foot-tall drop tower will launch from inside a 65-foot-tall Indian-inspired elephant statue. The Intamin free-fall tower is expected to be similar to the Hurakan Condor giant drop ride at Spain’s PortAventura.

An aquatic stunt show will take place on a man-made lake surrounded by stadium seating. Concept art suggests the outdoor arena could host a live show similar to the Waterworld sea war spectacular at Universal Studios Hollywood.

A children’s area with dark rides, a family coaster and other kiddie rides from Italy-based Zamperla is not expected to be operational when the park initially opens.

> Follow the Los Angeles Times Funland theme park blog on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World