The UK's Ealing Studios is preparing to expand into EasternEurope.

The legendary film studio is part of a consortium planningto bid for Bulgaria's Boyana Film Studios, the Eastern European country'sleading film production complex.

The state-owned studio has been for sale for a number ofyears and is now expected to be privatised by the end of this year. It issituated close to the capital city Sofia, has three sound stages and recentlyhosted the shoot of Spartacus for USA Cable Entertainment.

The consortium is led by International Film Services Ltdwhich, as well as Ealing, comprises a wide group of international investors fromEurope and Bulgaria. Crucially, the bid also has the support of Boyana'smanagement including chairman of the board and executive director EvgenyMichailov.

The consortium plans to aggressively market the studio to USand European film-makers, and hopes to rival neighbouring Romanian and Czechstudios for work. It also hopes increase the size and length of contracts forfilms shooting there. And it also plans to invest in its own co-productions,including Bulgarian language films, which will shoot there.

Patrick Newman, a director of International Film Servicesand who is an investor in the Uzbeck Film Studios, said that the consortium hada number of agents around Europe who would market the studio to the filmindustry.

Newman and Ealing Studios managing director Sean Hintonpresented their vision for the takeover of Boyana to the Bulgarian deputy primeminister Lydia Shulova in London yesterday. Boyana's Michailov was also at thepresentation.

Ealing is billed as the 'strategic leader' of the bid, andhopes that its involvement will allow it to offer film-makers a more completepackage in terms of a base in London plus easy access to Eastern Europe and itsmore cost-effective shooting locations.

Other industry players are understood to be interested inbidding for Boyana, including US production outfit Nu Image.