Babelsberg sees 'Racer' driving profit


COLOGNE, Germany -- After losing €2.7 million ($3.7 million) last year, Studio Babelsberg, Germany's oldest and most prestigious backlot, is counting on "Speed Racer" and a new tax incentive to get things roaring again.

2006 was a slow year for the studio, with Berlinale entry "The Counterfeiters" the biggest production to shoot on its lot. But Babelsberg is booked solid this year. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon wrapped location shooting for "The Bourne Ultimatum" in Babelsberg earlier this year and several high-profile German features including World War II drama "Flame & Citron" and "Hexe Lili" are scheduled to shoot on Babelsberg's soundstages.

Then there is "Speed Racer," the mega-budget anime adaptation that Andy and Larry Wachowski will direct for Joel Silver and Warner Bros. The live-action version of the Japanese cult favorite will lens almost entirely at Studio Babelsberg, starting in June.

As part of Germany's new tax-credit production incentive, the DFFF, "Speed Racer" will received $12 million in tax rebates from the German finance department (HR 4/29).

Babelsberg is currently in negotiations with two other studio projects interested in heading to Berlin.

Studio Babelsberg managers are forecasting significant revenue and profit growth for the year, though they declined to specify precise targets.
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