Argentine prez spares $28 mil film subsidy

INCAA excused from adding to public purse

BUENOS AIRES — The Argentine film industry has managed to escape a whopping reduction in its subsidy, thanks to a secret, four-month old pledge by President Carlos Menem that only came to light last week.

Aiming to ease Argentina’s massive budget deficit, the congress last year passed a law requiring certain tax-supported bodies to return half their budgets to the public purse, but film institute INCAA won’t have to.

In what amounts to a $28 million saving — about half INCAA’s annual budget — Menem signed a decree excusing the institute from ponying up.

Apparently owing to Menem’s friendship with INCAA topper Julio Maharbiz, decree has caused an uproar among opposition politicians, who say the move contradicts the terms of the fiscal law signed last December.

But Maharbiz told Daily Variety that Menem is only making good on a pledge made at last November’s Mar del Plata film fest, when he promised that INCAA’s budget would not be touched.

Subsidy necessary?

Maharbiz said his budget, which comes from taxes on TV ad sales, B.O. receipts and video rentals, will likely rise from $50 million to $60 million this year. Some 100 features are currently at some stage of production or preparation.

Argentines produced three of the country’s top five theatrical hits last year, and many pols wonder why the industry continues to need large state handouts.