PRAGUE — Looking every bit the pension fund manager, AB Barrandov’s new CEO Pavel Prerovsky faced a hostile press in Prague a week after he fired predecessor Vaclav Marhoul.
Though advance word indicated he would unveil his plans for the film studio he now runs, Prerovsky appeared unencumbered by any such details.
Beyond a vaguely phrased “intention to secure the studio with money,” the new studio chief revealed little in the way of alterations, either long- or short-term.
“The plans are almost the same as before, but to do things more effectively and efficiently, because the film business is very risky here,” he told Daily Variety. “No changes are planned for production or distribution.
“Releases confirmed for this year will go ahead.” He also said there were no plans to let go any other employees, and that Barrandov will continue with its current U.S. representation.
However, plans for a technology-oriented theme park, announced last year by Marhoul, will not go ahead. “It was a personal project of Vaclav Marhoul, and was never approved by the board of directors,” Prerovsky said.
Marhoul had yet to line up funding to begin work on the park, which was to be located on Barrandov’s extensive backlot.
The Barrandov property is the cause of speculations regarding Moravia Steel’s designs. Prerovsky was summoned to a meeting earlier with the Czech Minister of Culture, who made it clear that the state has a controlling “golden share” in Barrandov that dictates it be used for film production and no sale or long-term lease of property can take place without state approval.
Marhoul said that one of his conflicts with the Moravia Steel management was over their idea to use Barrandov land to build villas.
Prerovsky rejected Marhoul’s claim that Barrandov had been mortgaged to cover losses by owner Moravia Steel. He came armed with documents showing that only 35% of Barrandov had been used to secure 800 million crowns ($27 million) of a $77 million loan, rather than the $67 million claimed by Marhoul. He also brought along a letter from the state-owned bank stating that Moravia Steel was financially healthy and could repay the loan.
Prerovsky admitted that he had been completely unprepared for the huge reaction that followed the Marhoul firing.
He also looks remarkably unprepared to deal with the foreign producers the studio is trying to woo — unless, that is, they speak Czech.
Marhoul’s departure puts the spotlight on Radomir Docekal, general manager of Barrandov Studios, responsible for studio rentals. Docekal, who was brought into Barrandov by Marhoul and remains loyal to him, said he had considered resigning, but is staying on at Marhoul’s urging.
At this time, it is unclear who will take over as general manager of Barrandov Biografia, the production and distribution division. The position became open earlier this year when Anna Vasova resigned.
Also unclear is how Prerovsky will both increase local film production and make Barrandov more economically effective and efficient. Czech film, with rare exceptions, has little to no chance of recapturing its investment. Marhoul already had cut production to three films per year, compared with the 40 that Barrandov produced in its state-economy heyday.