Chiefs quit Russian studios

Grammatikov, Sergeev fear losing film rights

MOSCOW — The reform of Russia’s film studio system is looking rocky after toppers at two key facilities, St. Petersburg’s Lenfilm and Moscow’s Gorky Studios, ankled rather than implement government proposals.

Gorky head Vladimir Grammatikov, a veteran children’s film director, revealed Monday that he had been dismissed by the Culture Ministry.

Earlier this month, Lenfilm chief Victor Sergeev tendered his resignation, claiming he wanted to return to being an independent producer.

Both fear losing the lucrative film rights to their studios’ back catalogs under the privatization of Russia’s studio system, outlined by President Vladimir Putin in April.

Each studio is to be split into two entities, one to control the studio’s material assets — including property, buildings and equipment — and the other to hold rights to pre-1992 pics. Stakes in the first body will be offered to private investors.

The film collections will not be sold but may be transferred into a separate federal org, which will dole out funds to the studios.

Given the realities of local state funding — Lenfilm received a mere 1.3 million rubles ($40,000) from state coffers in 2001, according to Sergeev — the two studio heads are protesting moves that they believe will prove fatal to their outfits.

Both sold 10-year broadcast rights to their libraries to Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most holding in 1998; deal netted Lenfilm $7 million.

The government plans also are an issue for Russia’s largest studio, Mosfilm, although its topper, Karen Shakhnazarov, has been promised nothing will change there until the results of Lenfilm and Gorky’s restructuring becomes clearer.

Unlike the other studios, Mosfilm covers its operating costs and backs a small slate of feature projects each year with coin from renting its studio space to TV and advertising projects. As a result, it would not be threatened with bankruptcy even if it lost its library.

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