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Hungary plans huge studio, luring film world

June 04, 2004|From Reuters

BUDAPEST — Hungary, long an exporter of film talent, wants to attract moviemakers with a giant $184.2-million film complex that its backers say will have the biggest studio in the world.

"Filmmakers are moving to the East," said Hungarian-born Hollywood filmmaker Andrew Vajna, a co-sponsor of the project, and producer of "Evita," the "Terminator" and the "Rambo" series.

The complex will be named after Sandor Korda, who became Britain's first movie mogul as Sir Alexander Korda and taps a tradition that includes Mihaly Kertesz, later better known as "Casablanca" director Michael Curtiz, and "Dracula" star Bela Lugosi.

While filmmakers are drawn to eastern Europe by lower production costs, Hungary has been left behind by Prague and Bucharest in the battle for film dollars.

The complex, to be built in Etyek, 16 miles from the Hungarian capital, Budapest, is scheduled to be completed in 2005 and will cover 26.1 acres. It will have six studios, including one covering 6,070 square meters, which the investors said would be twice as big as the largest in the world. It will also offer the world's biggest water and underwater facilities.

"We will build it so big just because nothing similar exists and this will remain true for some time," Vajna told a news conference this week.

Vajna will build the complex with Sandor Demjan, a financier born in Etyek, who has built shopping malls in central Europe, with backing from Hungarian expatriates.

Hungary's filmmaking history, combined with its skilled and relatively cheap labor pool, and a new law giving tax breaks to filmmakers, will all help pull in business, Vajna said.

Other cheap, historic central European capitals like Prague and Bucharest, which built studios earlier, have attracted a flood of Western filmmakers in recent years. Prague has hosted the filming of blockbusters such as "Van Helsing," "Mission: Impossible," Vin Diesel's "XXX," and Sean Connery's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

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