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Private coin looks shaky in New Year

Russian gov't lends hand, ups state funding

MOSCOW — Come New Year’s Day 2002, Russia’s filmmakers will likely be waking up with something of a hangover — and it won’t just be from the aftermath of the previous night’s celebrations.

On Dec. 31, current tax concessions, which have facilitated private investment in film for the last five years, will expire, and the whole industry looks set for a shake-up.

Following slow recovery from Russia’s 1998 financial crisis, private investment has been strongly rising — from around 126 million rubles ($4.4 million) in 1999 to $25.4 million last year.

Whereas in 1999 state support of the sector totaled some $6.3 million, public funding, which in 2000 amounted to $11.5 million, hasn’t kept apace of private sources.

To prevent a short-term collapse, state funding will be increased to $47 million, according to Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi.

With a little more than half that figure allocated to features, support will be divided between five projects from debut directors (supported to the tune of $100,000 apiece), larger grants of around $300,000 to as many as 35 films, and nine so-called state commissions, in which support in the region of $1 million could allow Shvydkoi’s ministry to back projects in full. That should make for a potential production slate of as many as 50 new films.

Nevertheless, even with predicted rapid expansion of the country’s exhibition market — from around 100 renovated screens today to as many as 400 by 2003 — and the possibility for local product to take as much as 20% of the B.O., according to some observers, the future still looks uncertain for many of Russia’s private production companies.

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