EC backs Latvian cinema support

$68 million plan will run through 2013

LONDON — The European Commission on Thursday approved state film-support programs in Latvia and the Italian island of Sardinia after legal reviews to ensure they were compatible with European treaty state-aid rules.

The go-ahead for a six-year, $68 million Latvian plan will run through December 2013 and a three-year, nearly $12 million project in Sardinia that runs until 2010 came a day after the EC authorized Hungary’s $367 million amended tax-back scheme for filmmakers. It can run in its new form for six years.

EC Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the programs were approved after they were scrutinized to ensure they met European laws that allow for state aid on cultural grounds.

Latvia’s support plan, which includes aid for film development, production and distribution of Latvian and European films, would allow for the support and development of “Latvian film culture, particularly in rural areas,” Kroes said in a statement.

“With a population of 2.3 million, there are only 14 full-time cinemas and 46 screens in total throughout the country (compared to 1,103 screens in 1990). Since these are mainly concentrated in Riga, Latvian and European films would be inaccessible to people living outside Riga without the support provided by the scheme,” Kroes added.

Sardinia’s plan was similarly authorized on the grounds that “films reflecting the culture of a European region such as Sardinia would most probably not be sufficiently commercial to be made or distributed without public support,” Kroes said.

The Hungarian program, which ran for three years before the EC opted to review it, was approved after being amended to take into account the EC cultural rules.

“European cultural films play an important role in our society. I am pleased that the Hungarian authorities have introduced cultural criteria in their film support scheme since the commission’s interim approval of the original scheme,” Kroes said.

The Hungarian plan met the rules after amendments to make support and development of Hungarian film culture key to its focus.

Apart from a tax incentive that allows for up to 25% tax breaks, the Hungarian film support program includes direct grants for film development, production and distribution, as well as the operation of art cinemas and film festivals.

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