In abid to stem the decline of the local film industry, the creation of the FilmCenter of Serbia was announced last week. "Serbian cinema is on its death bed,but this is not a funeral. This the celebration for the opening of its new ER",said Djordje Milicevic, founder and president of the Center.

Milicevicis better known in Hollywood than in his own country, most notably as theco-writer of Andrei Konchalovsky's RunawayTrain (1985) and director of 1986 RidingFast. "Although we are the leading country in the region in respect of thenumber and quality of films produced annually, our greatest production facilityAvala Film Studios is in ruins, the exhibition sector is showing no progressand piracy is overwhelming", Milicevic said at the opening.

The FCShas been founded by the Ministry of Culture, Association of Directors andWriters, Association of Film Producers, Business Association of TheatricalExhibitors, Business Association of Film Distributors, Yugoslav Cinemathequeand Film Institute. It will function under the auspices of the ministries offinances, justice and education.

Anew cinema law, a new intellectual property and copyright law and changes inthe criminal law are among the first aims of the Center.

Itwill be financed from the budget of the Republic of Serbia, 1.5% of income fromNational Television, licences from renting and sale of VHS, DVD and CD titles,donations and sponsorship (with special tax breaks for investments in film) andcertain percentage of licences of commercial TV broadcasting stations and cableTV operators.

Themembers of the board also announced that they have come to an agreement withKodak to rent one of its film laboratories. However, they are still not able tofind an adequate housing for the laboratory and are hoping that some of thepotential sponsors will help.

Theterritory has been lacking a laboratory for twenty years and most of its filmsare completed in Croatia or Bulgaria.

Also,the exhibition sector is in serioustrouble - there is only one multiplex in the country and most cinemas areoperatign without profit. "We have had only 3.6 million admissions sold in 2003and Serbia - and Montenegro has a population of 10 million, in comparison withSlovenia's 2 million citizens and 4 million tickets", said Dragan Jelicic, theanalyst for the Business Association of Film Distributors. Twenty years ago,the former Yugoslavia had the same number of tickets sold as the UK which hadtwice the population.