Korda Studios luring local, overseas business

BUDAPEST — Before it was built, local media called the development “Etyekwood.”

Now in its first year of operation, Korda Studios — the $125 million, six-soundstage filmmaking complex located in the small town of Etyek just west of Budapest — is living up to these predictions.

Not only is Korda luring overseas business to its complex (the studio’s first big production, Universal’s “Hellboy 2,” wrapped Nov. 22 after a six-month shoot), but it is shaking up the regional film industry by drawing productions from the Czech Republic and Romania.

“There is a fight in Europe about where films should be made,” says Sandor Demjan, the studio’s majority investor. “I think Hungary can now join this contest.”

Korda has tapped international talent from production and political circles to boost its competitiveness. Late last year, former Hungarian ambassador to Washington Andras Simonyi was chosen as board chairman, and Charlie Arneson, former head of Fox Baja Studios and a key technical adviser on James Cameron’s “Titanic,” was hired to join Korda’s staff.

Nevertheless, Korda is still a work in progress. While four of its six studios are completed, the remaining two stages won’t be ready for business until the middle of 2008, according to Korda CEO Laszlo Krisan. The largest will be the 63,033-square-foot “Superstage,” understood to be the largest soundstage in the world.

Even now, Korda has received high marks from filmmakers. “Hellboy 2″ director Guillermo del Toro has praised the facility by calling it “perfectly calibrated to host a film of any caliber.”

But Korda’s international appeal also is being enhanced by two other factors. One is a film-friendly tax reform package passed by the Hungarian parliament that offers tax rebates of roughly 20% for all film and TV productions shot in the country.

The other is a sophisticated infrastructure that is sprouting in Budapest. On Nov. 23, Korda signed an alliance with Budapest-based post-production company Colorfront, whose owners developed the digital cinema (DCI) color-grading technology now known as Lustre.

In addition to color grading, Colorfront is using this technology to allow for low-cost creation of digital “dailies” using original shooting footage.

“With this technology, it’s possible to view shots as they’ll actually appear in the movie,” says Colorfront co-owner Mark Jaszberenyi.

Korda is hoping Colorfront will help make its studio a one-stop shopping option for foreign productions. “Korda Studios is a platform,” Simonyi says. “If it performs well, it can bring Hungary on a higher standard on the international film scene.”

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