Luc Besson's Cinema City project received a shot in the arm late last week when it was listed among France's 50 priority development projects by prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The proposed complex would house studios, soundstages, production offices and eventually even an amusement park. Planned for the Seine Saint-Denis suburb just outside Paris, the first construction permits are set to be allocated in the first half of 2004 (see, Jan 8).

According to Saint Denis' deputy mayor, the project could be finished in late 2005 or early 2006 at a cost of about Euros 100m put up largely by Besson himself and a real estate development company along with some state and regional financing.

Housed on the site of an abandoned EDF factory, the Cinema City would be built on 45,000 square meters and could help local post-production houses as well as a recently created cinema office aiming to bring foreign productions to the area.

Culture Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon expressed his support for the project in an interview with French weekly Le Film Francais on Friday and noted that the project should bring local companies "a very significant reinforcement in order to reach the critical stature which would mean the attraction of big international productions."

Le Film Francais also claimed that Besson would eventually move his Europa Corp. offices to the new complex - despite having just moved into spacious and impressive digs in Paris' 8th arrondissement.