Russia's Mosfilm facing production crisis

No films currently shooting; 2008 saw 140 shot there

MOSCOW -- Not a single movie is currently being shot at Mosfilm, Russia's largest studio complex, reflecting the situation in the movie industry here, hit by the global economic downturn as well as uncertainty with state support.

Karen Shakhnazarov, Mosfilm's general director, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that no film is being shot at the studio complex's stages, though some previously shot movies are in postproduction at Mosfilm's facilities. Between 130 and 140 film projects used Mosfilm's services last year, Shakhnazarov said.

"There are several factors that have had an impact on the situation," Shakhnazarov said. "First, it's the overall economic crisis, due to which private investors have pulled out of the film industry. Second, the ministry of culture has been unable to finally decide on what basis it will be providing funding for film projects, and state monies are not coming into the industry, either."

For more than 10 years, the local film industry has been highly dependent on cash from the government. In 2008, the government was expected to spend 3.3 billion rubles ($94.8 million) on film production and another 3.5 billion rubles ($101 million) in 2009.

But all those plans were made before the global economic downturn hit Russia, and today the situation with state funding is uncertain as the country's budgetary spend is being revised in response to declining revenue from oil exports.

A spokesperson for the cinema department at Russia's culture ministry, an agency administering state support for the film industry, told The Hollywood Reporter that it won't be clear how much cash the state will spend on the film industry this year and on what basis it will be distributed until the revision of the budget is complete -- which is expected within a few weeks. She couldn't confirm if the funds allocated last year were provided in full either. Meanwhile, a source in the industry said that not all cash promised by the state last year was actually paid.

And regardless of how much cash will come from the state budget to the local film industry this year, a decline is imminent. By various estimations, movie and TV series production in Russia could decline by 30%-50% this year, compared with 2008.

Mosfilm's Shakhnazarov said he couldn't give any prediction at this point. "In the film industry, it is impossible to speak about any percentage," he said. "I don't trust any statistics, including boxoffice figures. The decline is certain to continue, although it is impossible to say what it would amount to."

"I think, we will feel the consequences of the crisis for quite a long time," he added. "And the entire film industry will change as a result of it -- for instance, films' budgets will go down."
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