The Ministry of Culture and JSC "Film Studio" Lenfilm "on December 11 signed an additional agreement on the provision of subsidies from the federal budget. This follows from the materials on the website of the Federal Treasury. Film studios, as indicated in the document, are allocated 999.4 million rubles in December, another 486.6 million rubles. Lenfilm received it from the budget in August. Thus, in general, the Ministry of Culture will list the studio almost 1.5 billion rubles. This money can only be used to pay off the principal debt on a loan issued by VTB Bank, the text of the agreement says.
"Debt management is proceeding as planned," said a spokesman for the studio, declining to comment in more detail. The representative of VTB, in turn, noted that the bank "actively cooperates with Lenfilm on the repayment and restructuring of the film studio's loan debt within the framework of the instructions of the President of Russia." RBC sent a request to the Ministry of Culture.
Studio with a century of history
The history of Lenfilm began in 1914. Then the studio was called the military-cinematographic department of the Skobelevsky committee. After the revolution, the film studio was nationalized, and 20 years later it turned into Lenfilm.
There were filmed such films as "Striped Flight" (1961), "Wedding in the Robin" (1967), "Straw Hat" (1974), "Winter Cherry" (1985), "Peculiarities of the National Hunt" (1995), " Dovlatov "(2018).
How VTB became Lenfilm's lender
VTB opened a credit line for Lenfilm for RUB 1.53 billion. in 2013 at 10.25% per annum (from this year the rate has been reduced to 10.15%). This money was to be used to carry out repair work in buildings, purchase and install technical equipment, and build a new shooting studio. Eduard Pichugin, who headed the studio, called this loan "a gift from the state, which provided the loan with 100% guarantees."
Pichugin headed the studio in 2012, when director Fyodor Bondarchuk became the chairman of the board of directors of Lenfilm. The new management has drawn up a development plan for the film studio for 2016–2020. The stated goal is to return to the position of one of the main film studios in the country with a powerful production and creative resource, to overcome the financial, production and personnel crisis, and to rebrand.
Until 2017, the studio's revenue was growing, follows from the annual reports of JSC Lenfilm Film Studio, but in 2018 it decreased by 15%, to 231.4 million rubles. The share of filmmaking in revenue then amounted to 56%. The company's management explained the drop in income by the lack of subsidies from the Ministry of Culture in 2017–2018.
In 2019, Fyodor Bondarchuk asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to help the film company pay off its debt to VTB. The chairman of the Lenfilm board of directors complained that the film studio had not received the full rights to its “golden collection” - films shot at the studio before 1992, and state support was provided in volumes much less than those prescribed in the Lenfilm development concept. At the same time, VTB President Andrei Kostin said that if the state does not provide Lenfilm with a subsidy, the studio will only have to declare a default.
To pay off its debts, Lenfilm was going to sell its non-core assets, in particular the land plot on Tambasov Street in St. Petersburg. The site has been auctioned six times unsuccessfully since 2015.
Over the past seven years, interest on the loan has reached 674.5 million rubles. and the total debt to the bank increased to 2.2 billion rubles. “We hope to come to an agreement with the bank on the restructuring of interest on the loan, based on the program of financial recovery of the film studio,” said the current general director of Lenfilm Fyodor Shcherbakov in the fall.
How the management of the film studio changed
Pichugin was dismissed in December 2019. Then there were changes in the Lenfilm board of directors, but Bondarchuk retained the position of chairman of the board of directors.
Inessa Yurchenko, head of the St. Petersburg studio "Triix Media", became the interim manager of the film studio in February 2020. Under her, the film studio received the first part of the subsidy to pay off the debt to VTB. At the same time, a strategy for the recovery of the film studio until 2025 was prepared, supporting its financial model, business plan and "road maps", Yurchenko told RBC.
Under Yurchenko, a process was launched to return to Lenfilm its "golden collection": the prosecutor's office of the Moscow region and the Ministry of Culture filed a lawsuit with the Arbitration Court of the Moscow region against the FSUE "Gosfilmofond" located in Domodedovo and LLC "Twin SP", which was granted a license to dispose of Lenfilm's "golden collection" by 2024. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for February 1, 2021.