US producer David Kappes (Dune, Anne Frank) is said to be heading a group of American producers, called Trilateral Entertainment, interested in purchasing the Czech Republic's Barrandov Studios, according to local sources.

Current Barrandov owner Moravia Steel, which is selling the studio complex on the outskirts of Prague to focus on its core metallurgy business, has said that four bidders are still in the running for the studios.

Prague-based film production company Stillking Films and leading Czech television station TV Nova are also known to be interested in Barrandov.

A sale seemed close at the end of last year when Canadian consortium the Kodiak Group was expected to take ownership. The deal faltered, however, at the $35m (1.4 bn Kc) price tag for Moravia Steel's 80 percent stake in the studio.

Kappes was in Prague last year filming the ABC miniseries Anne Frank, following another Prague-based production, last year's mini-series Dune, which he also produced.

Meanwhile, upstart Prague Studios, which recently wrapped the $55 million shoot of New Line's Blade 2, has shut its doors for the remainder of the summer to undergo extensive renovation, while its owners look for additional financing for improvements.

At the same time, state-owned production studio, Boyana Film has been cleared for sale by the Bulgarian government. With various conditions to the sale, including guaranteeing its status as national production entity for a decade, the Balkan studio has attracted interest from a number of potential investors, including Kodak PMI, the cinema division of U.S. Eastman Kodak.

Investments in Boyana, Barrandov and Prague Studios would give impetus to new growth in Central and Eastern Europe's production capacity. Hollywood studios have been attracted to the region, and Prague in particular, in recent years. But many warn that unless the local industry invests heavily in infrastructure, the window of opportunity will soon close.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian Technologies has been chosen as the preferred buyer of local cinema exhibition company, Sofia Film, by the Bulgarian government's privatisation agency.

Bulgarian Technologies has offered $2.1m (4.7m levs) in cash for a 75% stake of Sofia Film, with a commitment to invest $2.7m (6.0m levs) in the company over the next five years.

Conditions of the sale included maintaining Sofia Film's line of business for 10 years as well as guaranteeing that a minimum 15% of films shown in Sofia cinemas will be either European or Bulgarian productions.