Luc Besson's proposed "cinema city" was given its first public green light today by the deputy mayor of Parisian suburb St Denis.

The long-gestating project has been rumoured for some time - although Besson has rarely addressed the subject. However, deputy mayor Patrick Braouezec announced the launch of the project on Thursday (Jan 8) for sometime in 2004.

"We expect building permits to be delivered in the first trimester followed by construction and an opening planned for late-2005, early 2006," said Braouezec according to Agence France Presse.

Calls to Europa Corp. were not returned by press time.

Based on reports, the completed cinema city would resemble a Hollywood studio lot akin to Universal's replete with studios, soundstages, theatres, production offices, shops, restaurants and eventually a theme park.

St Denis is a somewhat depressed suburb of Paris which currently houses several post-production facilities and which recently inaugurated a film commission designed to bring work to the area. The proposed building site is set on 45,000 square meters of riverfront property and was formerly occupied by EDF, France's national electric company. It is believed that Besson signed a promisory note to acquire the site in 2002.

Braouezec said that not a penny would be spent by the city of St Denis and that the project's budget of "several hundred million Euros" would be raised by Besson's Europa Corp., real estate developer Tertial, and federal and regional funding.