Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday announced $76m (RUB 2bn) in immediate support of the Russian film industry and promised to allocate at least $164m (RUB 4.3bn) annually.

Putin made the announcement in St. Petersburg at a conference on cinematography hosted by Russian World Studios (RWS). Russian news agency Kommersant reported that Putin made the decision 'in light of the need to form values that correspond to the interests of society and the strategic interests of the country.'

Moscow wants to increase local films' market share to 30% in four years and, to achieve this, will award producers of successful films with grants in the amount of 10% of their films' box office for production of subsequent films.

The government also wants to increase the number of screens in Russia, especially in smaller towns. The country now has more than 1,700 modern cinemas, mainly in large cities.

Putin also used the occasion to present his instructional DVD, Learning Judo With Vladimir Putin.

The conference, held on Putin's birthday, drew attention to the launch of film and TV production at RWS's new, $100m facility. The total production studio space encompasses 11,000 square metres, including six shooting stages, Dolby Premier dubbing suite, eight video editing suites, three sound editing suites, two dubbing suites and a re-recording suite. RWS says the facility can host up to seven movies and TV series simultaneously.

RWS plans to invest another $150 million in the second and third construction stages, which will be made as business-plans are approved. The next phase of construction will include a 21,500 square-foot stage, special effects studio and film processing lab, among other features.

RWS was founded in 1998 and is one of the largest film and television production companies in the Russian market. It has produced more than 500 hours of television and film content in 2008 and plans to double that figure for 2009. RWS has collaborated with such companies as Sony Pictures Television, HBO Films, Hallmark Entertainment and Beacon Pictures.

RWS is a subsidiary of Sistema, the largest public diversified corporation in Russia and the CIS.