Labour pledges cash for movies

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The Independent Online
The British film industry has been promised a financial boost from the Labour Party should they be voted into power at the next General Election.

Senior film industry sources yesterday confirmed that a change of government would lead to renewed cooperation with European production partners. Both Shadow Film Minister Mark Fisher and Shadow Heritage Secretary Jack Cunningham have pledged to reinstate Britain into the EU-backed Pan-European Production Fund.

The 24-country body, which is also known as Euroimage, was founded in 1989 to promote the concept of collaborative film ventures, but one of Virginia Bottomley's first moves as Heritage Minister last November was to withdraw British investment amounting to pounds 3m into the union because of "budget cutbacks".

Mr Simon Perry, the chief executive of the partially government-financed British Screen, which is now receiving pounds 5m of Lottery money to invest in films, described Mrs Bottomley's directive as "weird".

At the Dinard Film Festival on the coast of Brittany he said: "It was a mistake when she took this measure and she knows it. She was ill advised by civil servants.

"We have however been assured by Mr Cunningham and Mr Fisher that we will be back with our European partners if the Labour Party take control next year. That indeed is welcome news.

Lottery money has already been invested into two new films by British Screen. One is Wilde, based on the life of Oscar Wilde, which stars Stephen Fry and Vanessa Redgrave. The other is Amy Foster, to be directed by Beban Kidron.

But Mr Perry pointed out that Hollywood films still account for 85 per cent of the current box office in the UK.

He said: "We need to fully integrate with other European countries to compete with the Americans within the world market. Otherwise nothing is going to change."

An experiment to dub French language films into English rather than use subtitles has failed to make any impression with cinemagoers.

The drama French Twist (Gazon Maudit), directed by Josiane Balasko and starring Victoria Abril, was shown in the West End and several other cinemas earlier this year using the voices of British actors.

Though the film took pounds 300,000 in revenue, the measure had "no discernible effect" in attracting new customers to the cinema.