Moscow Film Festival Topper Wants to Build New Headquarters for Event

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Nikita Mikhalkov

Critics say Nikita Mikhalkov's plans would be an expensive folly, comparable to "eating foie gras in besieged [wartime] Leningrad."

MOSCOW -- Plans by Moscow film festival topper Nikita Mikhalkov to find a new headquarters for the event, rendered moot several years ago, are back on the agenda.

The Oscar-winning director, who last month made a red carpet appearance with Brad Pitt, wants to build a "festival palace" at Luzhniki Stadium, a large sports complex on the Moscow river near Gorky Park.

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The plans, first advanced during former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s tenure, have been dusted off after further criticism of the current festival center, the Soviet-era Oktyabr Cinema, located a couple of miles from the Kremlin.

Popular national tabloid newspaper Trud – originally a Soviet-era publication aimed at working-class readers -- dubbed the cinema "cramped, stuffy, dull and provincial" following last month’s festival, held during a humid heat wave.

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Mikhalkov has reportedly likened his favored location to Venice, stating that it you could "bring guests in on trams, hold briefings and press conferences on the water: The Moscow river is no worse than the Lagoon!,” according to Trud.

But building a multiplex of 9 to 10 halls, each containing 100 to 350 seats, would be expensive, and most media commentators doubt that Mikhalkov’s suggestions it could be paid for by sponsorship are realistic.

Documentary director Vitaly Mansky -- whose new film about the Russian gas line across Europe, Pipeline, has been scooping up prizes at festivals worldwide and who runs a tightly budgeted Moscow documentary festival Artdokfest -- dismissed the idea as an expensive folly, comparable to "eating foie gras in besieged [wartime] Leningrad."