The MotionPicture Public Foundation of Hungary (MMK) is preparing to invite investors toenter into a partnership to renovate and develop the MafilmStudios in Budapest, MMK general secretary Erzsebet Toth told

"Overthe past few years, every studio has come to Budapest looking for stages. They've lovedthe crews and the city," Toth said. "Thefilm law has boosted every sector of the industry. We have the film law, butwe're behind on infrastructure."

Agovernment ruling in December transferred ownership of the formerly state-runstudios to the MMK, a public foundation which supports film productions,festivals and exhibition in Hungary and promotion of Hungarian filmabroad.

MaFilmhas two complexes. One is a 22-hectare lot with sets in Fot,on the outskirts of Budapest, which hosted Fox's Eragon. The otheris a 1,200-square metre soundstage in Rona utca in Budapest proper. Built in 1911 by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), Rona recently hosted Hallmark'smade-for-TV Lion in Winter.

The MMKplans to renovate the Mafilm facilities. "Wewant to renovate [Rona] to preserve tradition and to dedicate it to Hungarianfilm," Toth said. "We want to invitepartners to build stages and sets at Fot."

MMK willinvite private industry to join a public-private partnership (PPP). Toth emphasizes that the private partner will not becomethe owner of the studio, however. "We will not sell the studios," shesaid. "But if a partner wants a 99-year lease of the lot and wants tobuild on the lot, we can offer ownership in the management of thecompany." Toth hopes to unveil detailed plans atApril's Location Expo in Santa Monica.

Hungary's film law, which was passed 2004,created attractive conditions for the development of infrastructure and manydevelopers began studying the possibilities. For the most part, however, the plannedfacilities have failed to materialize outside press reports.

NonethelessToth says Budapest could be home to several soundstagesystems that could complement each other. "I don't think it would behealthy for us to aim for exclusivity," she says.

Toth isrealistic about the challenges in going head-to-head with other production hubslike Prague. "When a project is looking for a location, we're competition foreach other. But as a region, we have common interests. We have to convince themto shoot here in Europe instead of in New Zealand," she says. "If Prague is booked, they can come to us, andvice versa."