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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Awards $68.2M to Film Studios

VedomostiA state-run foundation will give eight studios $8.5 million each, with bonuses possible for high-viewership films.

Eight major production companies will get 250 million rubles ($8.5 million) each from the state to make movies this year, the foundation awarding the subsidies said Friday.

The announcement was the first major distribution of money to the film industry since the Culture Ministry lost most of its oversight of the process last year.  

The ministry had come under fire for inefficiency as Russian movies continued to yield the top box-office spots to Hollywood blockbusters and some state-funded flicks never even made it into theaters.

Sergei Tolstikov, executive director of the Federal Foundation for the Social and Economic Support of Cinematography, announced the winning studios after a meeting Friday chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov.

The companies slated to get budget funds are STV; director Nikita Mikhalkov's Trite; Cinema Direction; Central Partnership; Igor Tolstunov's production company; Art-Pictures, co-owned by director Fyodor Bondarchuk; Bazelevs, owned by director Timur Bekmambetov; and Rekun, he said.

Mikhalkov, who heads the Russian Cinematographers' Union, is among the foundation's board of trustees, as are Zhukov, Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev, presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and Sistema chief executive Vladimir Yevtushenkov, RIA-Novosti reported.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized the industry in November while chairing a government meeting on cinematography, setting in motion a shakeup of how the state awards funds to filmmakers.

"Most likely, the movie industry's problems don't lie in the amount of funds and tax preferences it gets. The main problem is the management of these resources, the ability to create a competitive product, to gain a domestic and international audience," Putin said.

The government decided to increase its funding of the industry by 55 percent in 2010, Avdeyev said at the time.

In December, the foundation was asked to disburse 2.8 billion rubles in 2010, and a new mechanism to distribute the cash was worked out under the guidance of Zhukov.

The Culture Ministry was left with 849 million rubles to support children's, art-house and experimental cinema, Tolstikov said.

The foundation also has 300 million rubles to award bonuses for movies that attract more than a million viewers, he said. The remaining money will go to the production of socially important movies.

The system will be operational for two years, after which new recipients will be selected based on criteria approved by the foundation.

"We should concentrate on distinct criteria, there shouldn't be subjectivity. The criteria should be transparent for everyone," Zhukov said, Interfax reported.

Tolstikov said the criteria were developed by the company Movie Research and include cinema and television viewers' ratings of the movies, participation in major film festivals, awards and prizes received and production companies' experience.

Box-office receipts will not be considered because the number of theaters varies from year to year, Movie Research head Oleg Ivanov said, Interfax reported.

The Audit Chamber, which oversees budget spending, said earlier Friday that it would monitor the foundation's work.

Last year's box-office receipts from 78 movies produced in Russia were $176 million in the Commonwealth of Independent States, down 16.8 percent from $211.5 million in 2008, according to the data from Russian Film Business Today magazine.