Since June, the comic strip movie sequel has spent 127 shooting days in Hungary, occupying four Korda (www.kordastudio.hu) sound stages as well as using locations in Budapest and the countryside.
When pressed about how much of its $72 million dollar budget Hellboy II (www.hellboymovie.com) has spent in Hungary, del Toro hesitated, consulted with colleagues, and ventured: "It's safe to say, a big chunk." He added about 15-20% of the budget will be spent in London on post-production and special effects.
Studio owners Andrew G. Vajna and Sándor Demján were at hand as well, and Vajna described how Hungary has capitalised on its attractive 20% tax rebate on film productions.
Since the film law was implemented in 2004, local film industry spending leaped from 7 billion forint (€27 million) to 59 billion forint (€239 million) this year.
"It's my fourth movie in Eastern Europe and when I made Blade II, I wasn't shooting in Barrandov because I didn't find it suitable for the film," said Del Toro, who will be in Hungary another 20 days. "I'd love to come back and make another film here one day."
Vajna said negotiations are under way with four major productions that are due to start principal photography in the next six months.
Universal's managing director Mark Symes added that the studio is "seriously considering" bringing another movie to the Korda Studios.
After such praise, it was Vajna who noted a weakness in the industry. "The workforce needs training," he said. "There aren't enough English-speaking crew members around."
The studios are far from being finished. Two more sound stages will be completed within six months, after which the Korda Studios will be able to house and service two $30-100 million productions simultaneously.
In the meantime, Demjan's TriGranit Rt. (www.trigranit.com) is building a similar studio near Moscow.
"Investors like Peter Munk and Nathaniel Rotschild do not invest in the Korda Studios if they're not convinced it will bring the money back," Korda CEO Laszlo Krisan said.