Film-makers have welcomed the decision of the lower house ofthe Czech parliament to approve an amendment to film law which would morethan triple the size of the State Fund for the Support and Development of CzechCinematography.

But the decision has upset exhibitors, broadcasters andrental shops who will be expected to foot some of the bill.

Overriding recommendations of the upper house, the Chamberof Deputies passed legislation that would increase the annual size of the fundfrom $3m to at least $9.6m. Culture Minister Viteslav Jandak said the fundcould reach $16.6m.

Jana Cernik, director of the Czech Film Center, whichpromotes Czech film worldwide, told ScreenDaily the new law was the first step towards raising Czech productions toEuropean and international levels.

Not only will the legislation result in more Czech filmswith higher budgets, she said, but it will also allow Czech producers to becomeequal partners in European co-productions.

Cernik said that the next step would be to make the processby which the council awards funding to projects more transparent.

Currently projects receive funds based on the secret-ballotdecision of a council whose 12-members are named by the minister for culture onthe recommendation of various audiovisual associations.

Under the new law, the council increases to 15 members- nine named by the minister plus six representatives of exhibitors,distributors and broadcasters who contribute to the fund - which must beapproved by parliament.

The new law does not however spell out the procedure forawarding funds to projects or the qualifying criteria.

The increase in funds would require higher contributionsfrom broadcasters, exhibitors and rental shops.

Exhibitors, for example, would contribute 2% of the price ofeach admission to the fund, or about $0.13 on an average ticket - almostthree times the current contribution.

Exhibitors warn that ticket prices may go up as a result.David Horacek, general manager of operations for Palace Cinemas, told that he is not opposed to increasing the size of thestate fund, but thinks the funds should come from general tax revenues, notfrom exhibitors' earnings.

"I'm not very happy about it," Horacek said. "I think thisis the one group of private businessmen, the producers, pointing to anothergroup, the exhibitors, and saying, 'For our expensive hobby, we need theirmoney.'"

Horacek said any resulting increase in ticket price wouldnot necessarily deter moviegoers, who care more about what's showing than howmuch it costs.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus is expected to approve the billin the coming weeks, making it law as of July 1.