CLT-UFA cranks up

Ups German TV prod'n, sets U.S. partners

BERLIN — Europe’s leading television group CLT-UFA has ambitious plans to increase its production volume in German-lingo territories.

CLT-UFA unit UFA Film & TV Produktion announced on Thursday the establishment of a DM$100 million ($55 million) film fund financed by UFA and Brandenburg state bank ILB.

“We already have a chain of TV stations, and now want to concentrate on building up the production side of our business,” Ewald Walgenbach, deputy chairman of CLT-UFA, told reporters at a press conference at UFA headquarters in the Berlin suburb of Babelsberg.

By creating its own stock of programming, Walgenbach added, CLT-UFA “guarantees our networks a degree of independ-ence and a strong negotiating position with regard to the Hollywood studios.”

According to the terms of the contract, UFA is committed to providing 80% of the fund’s capital, while the ILB supplies the remaining 20% in the form of a loan. In exchange for the ILB’s support, UFA has agreed to produce a large portion of the fund-financed productions in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

According to UFA chairman Wolf Bauer, UFA will invest most of the coin in co-productions with U.S. partners, including Warners, HBO, Procter & Gamble and Paramount. Two high-budget TV movies, “Hostile Waters” with HBO and “Disaster at the Mall” with Warners, have already been shot at Studio Babelsberg. “Romanov’s Gambit”, a co-production with Paramount, starts lensing in Babelsberg and St. Petersburg this summer.

The fund’s period of validity stretches over a decade, but Bauer said he would like to “put the money to use as quickly as possible — perhaps in as little as three years.”

UFA is Germany’s leading TV production company, creating 800 hours of programming yearly for German webs. The company had a production volume of $126 million in 1997, and expects $164 million in turnover for 1998.

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