Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised local film industry funding plus meetings between local industryites and the Kremlin to improve communication and cooperation.

Details emerged following Tuesday’s meeting between producers and Putin at a cinematography conference in St. Petersburg (Daily Variety, Oct. 7), where he promised 2 billion rubles ($76 million) in immediate money to back “films aimed at creating a system of values corresponding to the interests of the Russian society and strategic goals of national development” such as tyke and arthouse films and documentaries.

He added: “Starting in 2010 it is planned to allocate about 4.3 billion rubles ($164 million) annually on … supporting national film production companies.” Putin hopes this will up Russian features’ share in domestic film distribution to 30% in the next four years.

The funding announcement follows the closure of the federal agency for cinema and culture in May, when new culture minister Alexander Avdeev announced that grants to producers would be made directly from his ministry. A new department of cinematography within the culture ministry was set up in July under Alexander Golutva — former deputy head of the old agency.

Avdeev promised at the time that a secure system of film funding would be introduced and an annual figure of around $160 million was mentioned.

Putin’s speech at the confab confirming that figure will be welcomed by producers here who rely on state funding, although the $76 million he mentioned is likely to be money already committed for this year, as government budgets are set long in advance.

Yuri Sapronov, co-founder of Russian World Studios, which hosted the confab at its new studios in St Petersburg, told Daily Variety that the idea of setting up a special government department to bring together senior government and entertainment industry had been well received.

“Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg was a very important one for the Russian film industry,” Sapronov said. “Many chief executives and producers were there, and the question concerning establishing some special government department was among the issues that were discussed.”

His company’s experience in creating Russia’s first filmmaking facility in 60 years — a project in which RWS had worked closely with the government of St. Petersburg — had demonstrated the benefits of close and regular liaison with officials, he added.