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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Famed Film Studio on Brink of Closure




ST. PETERSBURG -- The head of Lenfilm warned on Thursday that the city's filmmaking industry was at a point of near collapse and accused the Russian government of instigating the crisis by crushing the industry with taxes.


Viktor Sergeyev's comments came a week after Armen Medvedev, head of the federal film commission, said he would resign in 100 days if the government did not take steps to halt the decline in the country's film industry.


On Wednesday, the Lenfilm administration sent an open letter to President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian government saying it was losing faith in its economic course.


"Filmmakers are not miners, and our protest will unlikely be as loud and threatening, but please remember that you came to power in most part thanks to the support of the intelligentsia," the letter said.


"Film production has entirely stopped at Lenfilm," Sergeyev said at a news conference. Lenfilm, founded in 1918 and the country's oldest film studio, only finished four out of 12 planned films in 1997. A dozen were planned to be released in 1998, but so far only two have been completed, and no more will likely follow, he said.


Last year, the Russian film industry as a whole received only 17 percent of what the government promised, while Lenfilm received only 9 percent, Sergeyev said.


Filmmakers, however, are not asking for government handouts. Their chief demand is that the government simply adhere to its own laws, specifically a 1996 law that promises businesses tax breaks for investing in the film industry.


"The government has done everything possible so that this law does not work," Sergeyev said. "If this law worked we would not need government subsidies."


In contrast, Moscow's film industry is enjoying relative prosperity due to active support from Mayor Yury Luzhkov.


According to Sergeyev, so far this year Luzhkov has allocated $15 million toward filmmaking and $5 million for new equipment.


"Because there is more money in Moscow, it is easier to find financing there for one's film," said Sergei Mikaeyan, a leading St. Petersburg director most famous for the 1982 film classic, "In Love Through One's Freewill."


Located in the city center, on prime real estate, Lenfilm brings in some money by renting out office space to commercial businesses as well as independent filmmakers.