Three Russian film companies merge

State law will no longer fund single projects

MOSCOW -- Three film companies owned by well-known Russian producers have announced a merger, local media reported Monday.

Sergei Gribkov's Top Line Group, Yusup Bakhshiyev's MB Prods. and Arnold & Gregor will form a new company, according to Russian business daily Kommersant. The move follows the government's unveiling of a new film financing plan under which production companies, rather than individual film projects, will be entitled to receive funding as of 2009.

The three companies have a total of seven films in production, and the new company plans to produce at least six features a year, Gribkov told Kommersant.

"The new company will be co-owned in equal shares by me, Bakhshiyev and producer Arkady Danilov," he added.

MB Prods. co-produced Andrei Konchalovsky's criminal thriller "Antikiller," the first local film ever to pass the $1 million boxoffice mark, back in 2002, while Top Line's most successful picture was 2003's crime comedy "Don't Even Think About It!"

Industry insiders say that other production shingles may follow suit in an environment where most smaller players don't release more than one movie a year.