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Valenti Sees Soviet Interest In U.s. Films

July 22, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, has concluded a visit to Moscow with high hopes that the Soviet Union is going to buy more American films.

Valenti came to the conclusion after talks with the Soviet official in charge of the movie industry, Alexander N. Komshchalov, and Elem Klimov, head of the Cinematographers' Union and a major force in film making.

But he said it was too soon to tell whether the Soviet Union would enter a new era by accepting more films made in the West and, in turn, producing more Soviet movies for the world market.

"There are possibilities here that never existed before," Valenti said in an interview before his departure. "(Soviet leader Mikhail S.) Gorbachev really wants refreshing winds of change to blow." He said Soviet officials want to get more involved in international cinema marketing, obtain more American films for Soviet audiences and enter into more co-production agreements, or joint ventures, with foreign concerns.

But Komshchalov said the Soviet Union can spend only $2.5 million a year for all foreign films, Valenti reported, adding that only 15 American films were sold here in the last five years--for very low prices, ranging from $40,000 to $250,000 each.

Valenti said he suggested that perestroika , or restructuring, be applied to the method of paying for American or other foreign films.

Rather than a flat price for each picture, Valenti said, films should be paid for with a percentage of box-office receipts, in accordance with the practice outside the Soviet Union and the East Bloc.

In this way, Valenti suggested, both the American producer and the Soviet film organization, known as Goskino, could earn more money, especially from a popular film.

"They listened but did not commit themselves," Valenti reported of his talks with Soviet officials.

As for Soviet films breaking into the world market, Valenti said he urged that Soviet producers focus more on making films with good stories and wide popular appeal than on pictures with obvious ideological messages.

Valenti also recommended greater Soviet investment in market research and a global distribution network if Moscow were serious about getting more international exposure for its films.

With high-quality movies that appeal to West European and North American audiences, he said, the Soviet Union easily could earn another $5 million or $10 million a year that would in turn be available for purchase of foreign films.

The talks took place against the background of the 15th Moscow Film Festival, where Soviet organizers tried hard to change the event's reputation for slanted judging in favor of Soviet and East Bloc entries.

At the opening ceremony, Klimov noted with some irony that the films of American actor Robert De Niro, who was chairman of the feature film jury, never had been shown publicly in the Soviet Union. "But we hope that the situation will change," he said.

Critics for the weekly Moscow News noted that film buffs in the Soviet Union tried to see as many of the foreign movies as they could during the festival since otherwise there would be no chance to view them.

But the critics also noted that Goskino recently acquired rights to several American films, such as "Amadeus," directed by Milos Forman, "All That Jazz" by Bob Fosse and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," also by Forman. They were shown at the festival outside the main competition and will be generally released for the Soviet public in coming months.

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