Eisenstein's archivists loses skirmish with strip club

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In what the country's cultural guardians believe is an ominous sign of the times, the central Moscow museum has been ordered to vacate its premises by the end of the year.

The Muzey Kino finds itself homeless after the Union of Russian Film Makers inexplicably sold its stake in the building earlier this year.

The new owners already operate a casino, a strip club and a luxury sauna in other parts of the building and are said to be keen to expand their entertainment complex, the likes of which already line many central Moscow streets.

Though the office of President Vladimir Putin has said it believes that the museum is of significant importance, alternative premises have not been found.

Instead, warn its curators, the museum's archive and exhibits face the prospect of being put into storage with little or no public access while the museum's four art house screens, which seat almost 500 people and show Russian and world cinema classics, look like they will simply be shut down.

Directors Quentin Tarantino and Bernardo Bertolucci are among those who have spoken in support of the museum's preservation and cinema buffs have formed a special action group to try to save what is rightly considered to be one of the capital's best art-house cinemas.

"We call on the public officials in charge to understand the contribution of the museum to Russian culture and to do everything possible to save this unique cultural institution," the group said in a statement recently.

"The shutdown of Muzey Kino is a blow to Russian culture, international contacts, and the prestige of our country." The museum, which opened in 1989, houses an archive containing 40,000 items including original film prints, scripts, props, set designs, costumes, still photographs, and projectors.

Naum Kleiman, the museum's director, said: "We're even prepared to give up our storage space to the new owners but let them leave us our screens so that our work and screenings are not interrupted."