Meeting with Alexander Sokurov triggers rethink

The future of Russia’s historic Lenfilm Studios in St. Petersburg remains unclear after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized plans to modernize the complex, founded in 1918.

Filmmakers petitioned Putin during the summer to save Lenfilm from a multimillion dollar makeover that would have given partial control of the state studios to private interests.

Now, following a meeting with St. Petersburg-based director Alexander Sokurov — whose “Faust” won the Golden Lion at Venice last month — Putin said the studio’s future needs a radical rethink.

“I really want to save the studio,” Putin said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

“The studio has a fine tradition and that should be cherished, but the situation is more complicated than it seems at first glance. There were many suggestions, but no proposal that is seriously worked out from an economic point of view.”

Conservative estimates put the cost of saving Lenfilm — where crumbling infrastructure and years of neglect threaten the very structure of the buildings — at around $15 million.

But Sokurov told Putin that as much as $60 million is needed to put the studio back on its feet.

The public-private partnership plans, announced this year by culture minister Alexander Avdeyev, involved conglom AFK Sistema, which owns the newly built Russian World Studios complex in St. Petersburg.

The scheme envisaged leaving 25% plus one share of Lenfilm ownership in public hands.

It was put on ice earlier this year after a dispute on valuing the studio’s assets, which include a prime downtown location in St. Petersburg and a valuable film library of classic Soviet-era films.

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