Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

FILM PRODUCER VREME IN EXPECTATION OF ITS TIME TO ARRIVE

The time has arrived for a calmer attitude, unencumbered from emotions and sensational noise, on the privatisation of Orpheus Audio Video and the film producer Vreme, whose principal is the Ministry of Culture. As it is well-known (but as if forgotten), former premier Ivan Kostov's government entrusted the privatisation of cultural institutions to the Ministry of Economy, and the then minister of culture Emma Moskova accepted that order without any objections. At first glance, logics could be seen in that move, because the Ministry of Economy had worked out mechanisms for the divestment process. But it didn't have the faintest idea of the differences between economic and cultural enterprises. Last summer the Privatsiation Act was entirely amended. The existing lists of companies slated for divestment was replaced by prohibition lists and everything not on them became liable to privatisation. Thus, the film maker Vreme EOOD and Orpheus Audio Video were put on the table for sale. Vreme was numbered 212 and was placed between two surveying enterprises - one in Petrich and one in Haskovo. So, the mechanism started operating automatically, although in the Privatisation Agency there is already an understanding about the specific character of the economic activities in the cultural sphere. And doubts began.Orpheus Audio Video owns a vast real estate and plots of land behind Park Hotel Moscow, which is an attractive bite for any buyer. Vreme, with its six-storey building on Dondoukov boulevard and rest home on the southern Black Sea coast, is also attractive. Moreover, the TV film channel Vreme is projected to begin broadcasting Bulgarian movies in the autumn of 2003. Thanks to the good management - initially headed by Atanas Kiryakov and presently by Stanimir Trifonov - Vreme got on its feet and is currently producing and selling films. It even posted a profit for 2002 and the first quarter of 2003 in the words of its director. In addition to services to external clients, Vreme makes TV programmes and films together with the Bulgarian National Television, the National Film Centre, and with Bulgarian and foreign producers. Ten titles have already been sold this year. Experience in the former totalitarian countries shows that this is the right way to be followed and that the one-time giant film makers are splitting into smaller structures which are more flexible and manage to survive in the new market economy. Vreme is such a structure. Stanimir Trifonov has focused on the well-arranged and maintained film library with own products, whose market price is much higher than that of the real estates, possessed by Vreme. However, the copyrights are in the State's hands (the National Film Centre). This is the great wealth of the film producer, which remains unnoticed and is not taken into consideration in the privatisation philosophy. Such wealth can be kept, replenished, and used, only by film figures, who have created it and are interested in its preservation. Currently, there is a principal agreement for using the film library by the TV channel Vreme in cooperation with the National Film Centre, Filmauthor, and Misicauthor, i.e. the fate of the TV channel is directly dependent on the ownership. A hypothetical privatisation ruins the project for a TV film channel, and this would mean a serious gap in our cultural space. The divestment of both Vreme and Orpheus Audio Video is presently at a standstill. At first, the Minister of Culture Bozhidar Abrashev objected to the ill-considered, automatic privatisation. In the National Assembly the MP and actor Stefan Danailov also directed the deputies' attention to that problem. As a result the Vice Premier and Minister of Economy Nikolay Vassilev froze the privatisation of the two cultural institutions. Vreme has a 52-year old history and has won many Bulgarian and international awards, and its production still brings profits. The future of film-making in Bulgaria, including the fate of the producer Vreme can be decided by passing a law on the film industry. The draft bill, as it is known, has been approved by the Council of Ministers and now everything is in the hands of the National Assembly.

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