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Russian Government Promises Support for Lenfilm's Development Scheme

The country's oldest studio has to remain under state control.

MOSCOW -- The Russian government has promised support for a 1.5 billion rouble ($47.7 million) development scheme for struggling St Petersburg-based studio Lenfilm as long as it remains state property.

At public hearings hosted by the culture ministry and devoted to the future of Russia’s oldest film studio, held in Moscow on September 11, two proposals for the studio’s development were made. A group of St Petersburg film directors, including Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German, proposed a 2 billion rouble ($63.6 million) scheme, under which the studio would become a platform for experimental and art-house cinema as well as a production base for children’s and youth movies.

The alternative concept, presented by Lenfilm’s board of directors, stipulated that the studio focus more on commercial cinema as experimental and children’s films wouldn’t bring in any profits.

The government’s property agency, Rosimushchestvo, said it is in favor of the latter proposal. “Rosimushchestvo is ready to support the proposal by the board of directors, as long as the studio remains state property, its production facilities are modernized and its focus remains on [film production],” the agency’s representative, Oksana Tarasenko, was quoted as saying by gazeta.ru.

However, it isn’t yet clear where exactly investment for the studio, whose facilities are in poor condition, is going to come. Earlier this month, the group Sistema, which owns Russian World Studios, said it was pulling out its earlier investment proposal for Lenfilm.

Sistema’s proposal was made public last year and caused fears in St Petersburg’s filmmaking community that film production could be moved to the city’s outskirts, while the lucrative plot of land in St Petersburg’s center would be converted to other uses. Several prominent filmmakers, including German and Sokurov, spoke up against the scheme.

Currently, Lenfilm’s debts amount to 76 million rubles ($2.4 million). Meanwhile, the idea of returning Lenfilm’s film library to the studio, which would annually bring in about 100 million rubles ($3.2 million) in royalties, is currently under discussion.