02-03-2008

Greenhill Studios to open in Pecs in late 2008 (update)

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Greenhill Zrt., a consortium of three investors led by Hungarian film director Tamás Sas, has taken further steps towards financing a 7.2-billion-forint (Є27.4 million) state-of-the-art studio complex and media center in the southern Hungarian city of Pécs. A second studio is planned in Szentendre

The studio premises will be built on a seven-hectare mining lot in the Mecsek hills. An electricity plant will be converted to a 600-square-meter sound stage with 1,500 square meters of new facilities and office space. Another 2.8 billion forints in infrastructural items such as software and lighting equipment is to be provided by partners.

"Greenhill already has the state-owned Hungarian Development Bank on board," Sas (9 ½ Dates) told FNE on Feb. 29. "We are in advanced negotiations with two other private banks which would finance the project jointly, creating a consortium." He declined to name them but added, "They are major players in their field."

He said the negotiatioins are taking a long time because "It is difficult and new for Hungarian banks to judge the viability of any film investments. They don't have reliable indicators and methods for it."

The banks' preliminary commitment to the project has prompted Greenhill to take the next step in securing the property for the studio. The company has emerged as the frontrunner in acquiring the land. "We sent a statement to the city last week confirming that we will buy that land," Sas said.

Under the conditions set by the bank loans, Greenhill will provide 15% of the financing. No European Union funding is involved.

Greenhill signed a preliminary agreement with the city of Szentendre in March 2006 to build a studio of three sound stages on a 30-hectare former army property.

If all goes well, Sas plans to open the Pecs studio by year-end. The Szentendre complex would be launched in late 2009.

In the meantime, Sas has established a Pecs-based production company, Greenworks Kft,. to scout for projects that he would shoot on his new sound stages.

Sas estimates that the combined studios would service about 12 mid-range ($30 million, €19.8 million) productions annually, which could conceivably contribute about $360 million to the local economy.