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MediaPro lures Hollywood east

Bucharest offers cheaper prod'n costs

BUDAPEST — Romania’s MediaPro Studios has launched an offensive to lure Western producers a bit further east of the traditional centers of the European production industry — to the little-known but gradually emerging capital of Bucharest.

Powered by new investment in the MediaPro complex, the Romanian location has recently serviced films by Costa Gavras, Richard Pepin and Gregory Hieras, as well as Franco Zeffirelli, whose “Callas Forever” is in the principal photography stage.

Such heavyweight directors are drawn to a facility Bucharest because MediaPro can make a movie 10% to 20% cheaper than at competing studios in Prague, which now gets a good share of Hollywood productions. (Bruce Willis, Matt Damon and Wesley Snipes recently completed shoots in the Czech Republic.)

And given that Prague can better London prices by anywhere between 25% and 35%, Romania’s savings are considerable.

In addition, MediaPro says it has the facilities to get the job done. According to MediaPro Pictures marketing manager Roxana Gramada, the company invested $20 million in revamping and modernizing the legendary Buftea studio complex, which it bought in 1998.

In 1999, MediaPro serviced the Pepin action film “Epicenter.” Last year, it housed four movies, including Terry Cunningham’s “Elite,” Hieras’ “Dark Asylum” and Sam Irvin’s “Elvira’s Haunted Hills.” Budapest-based producer Laszlo Sipos, who has been making foreign films in Hungary for more than a decade, says Budapest and Prague still offer the most competitive packages (low costs, solid infrastructures and a competent service sector) for foreign producers.

But Gramada says Romania’s other attributes will win it more business in the future. She says the nation boasts the longest working day in Europe, one of the cheapest labor forces and enthusiastic crews.

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