Money woes hurt Lenfilm

Topper sez studio threatened with closure

MOSCOW — The head of Russia’s oldest studio, St. Petersburg-based Lenfilm, said its production had stopped entirely because of financing shortfalls, and the studio is threatened with closure.

Lenfilm chief Victor Sergeyev told journalists Thursday that the studio had completed only four of a projected 12 pics in 1997, while this year two had been finished — with no more likely to follow.

Studio management has addressed an open letter to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, complaining that Lenfilm funding from allocated state sources was lower than the national average. The studio has received only 9% of budgeted funds in 1998, compared with 17% across the country.

Sergeyev cited legislation passed this year that forbids mutual settlement of studio debts against money owed to it by the government as one major problem for Lenfilm, as well as non-implementation of Russia’s 1996 film law, under which private investors in production could count on tax breaks.

“The state has done all it can to prevent the functioning of this legislation. If it was working properly, we would have no need of state subsidy,” Sergeyev said.

Founded in 1918, Lenfilm has produced more than 1,500 pics over its 80-year history, but recently has fallen behind Russia’s other major studio, Mosfilm. Lenfilm receives no support from St. Petersburg authorities, Sergeyev said, while Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov has this year already allocated $15 million for production at Mosfilm, as well as $5 million for upgrading facilities.

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