Barrandov Studios plans to go ahead with a new 4,000 square meter stage for its Prague film complex, despite the news that owner Moravia Steel is no longer seeking an investor.

The announcement of the cancelled sale sparked concern in the local film industry, but it's business as usual at Barrandov, said marketing director Matous Forbelsky. The new stage will be financed with a bank loan and "doesn't have anything to do with the sale of Barrandov," Forbelsky told Screendaily.

The new stage would provide almost 60% additional capacity to the existing 6,700 square meter space at Barrandov - at a time when Prague is struggling to keep up with demand from "runaway" Hollywood productions, and other shoots.

The new stage, which will be divided by movable walls into three sections, will allow Barrandov to accommodate an overflow in bookings.

But as Prague continues to attract productions such as Universal's ongoing Van Helsing shoot, Forbelsky says the new stage will most likely not be completed until next year. "We are still waiting for construction permits. That's all we need, actually," he said.

Currently Barrandov is one of two Prague locations outfitted specifically for film shoots. The other is Prague Studios, which recently received an investment from London post-production house Midnight Transfer.

Pressed for capacity, producers often find it more economical to rent out sporting halls and empty warehouses than to shoot in either location. Forbelsky says the studio is currently booked solid until the middle of 2004.

Barrandov owns an additional 2,500 square meters of stages at another location in Prague.

Since financing for new ventures has traditionally come from bank loans and from the profits of the studios themselves, rather than the owner, Forbelsky says Moravia Steel's halted auction changes little at the studio itself.

"Barrandov was never really backed by the owners in developing the studios. It was not their plan to invest in new technology and new development," he said.

Moravia Steel had said it was seeking a buyer for the studios for five years to focus on its core metallurgical business. However, with at least one buyer ready and willing, it announced this month it was intending to keep control of the profitable studio indefinitely.