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RANCATI, THE BIGGEST DREAM FACTORY IN EUROPE, IS ITALIAN
Films like "Once Upon a Time in America", "Ben Hur", "The Name of the Rose", "Spartacus" and "Braveheart" - all part of the history of cinema - have one thing in common: they all employed the professionalism and know-how of the Italian company Rancati. The company was started in 1864 to cater to the needs of the opera (it began by supplying La Scala in Milan and some other Italian theatres), producing and renting out props to the entertainment business. Rancati was able to offer thousands of pieces, from arms and armour to costume accessories, from furniture to furnishing complements and, of course, reproduction jewellery of every historical period. Rancati has been described as “the biggest dream factory in Europe”. Actually, the Rancati prop business - a company run with passion by the Sormani family - mainly serves the Italian market, but it is always open to the rest of the world. Its overseas turnover is now 30%, a large proportion of total income.
As Romolo Sormani who, together with his sister Cristina, represents the new generation of the family that has run the business for a century, explains “Scenographers and costume designers from all over the world come to us because they know they will find what they are looking for immediately. Our storehouses, which are the result of many years in the business, and where every object is categorised according to type and historical period, are our strongest point”. The sheer quantity and range of objects, and the number of historical periods represented are the keys to the success of this Italian company. The multi-level storehouse, covering a total area of 4,000 square metres, is divided between the premises in Milan and Rome. Sormani continues “The storehouse is managed dynamically. After an object has been made and rented out, it is placed on file and stored. When a customer makes a request, we first check to see if the item suits their needs. If not, we make ad hoc modifications, if possible”.
All this is possible because Rancati has about 20 master craftsmen altogether in Milan and Rome. They have considerable experience in working with metal, wood, leather and fabrics, and skills in the decorative arts and painting. In fact, Rancati tries to carry out all its work in-house, in order to enhance and encourage the artistic skills and level of craftsmanship of its employees. Some large quantities of semi-finished items that are not produced in-house are contracted out to Italian suppliers, to ensure Made in Italy quality is maintained. “We produce the feasibility studies, drawings, models and moulds for individual items,” Sormani explains “then we get external firms to do the moulding, casting, turning and cutting work. We do the finishing, assembly, decoration and final modifications when the objects come back to our laboratories. So we keep overall control of the process of creation, from beginning to end.” The business model does not include raw material stock management: they buy in materials strictly according to the needs of individual jobs, which are produced on commission.
Rancati has a huge potential clientele. “It ranges from private individuals to the film industry,” explains Romolo Sormani, who adds “we work a lot with the cinema and theatre outside Italy”. The Italian business also deals with supplying events, advertising, fashion and fairs. However, the cinema and theatre are still the main sides of the business. “Years ago,” Sormani continues, “most of our demand came from TV advertising, fashion and showcasing, but that sector has fallen off recently". To sum up, Rancati aims to provide rapid answers to the needs of the entertainment business, be it the theatre or film industry. “Although,” admits Romolo Sormani “there has been a tendency in recent years for big film productions and large theatres to produce their own costumes, furnishings and props.” To counteract this trend, reduce costs and improve service to the customer, there is a plan to set up an association of the largest suppliers to the film industry.”