Riga Film Studio Sold at Auction


    RIGA: The complex of Riga Film Studio buildings, including the largest sound stage in the Baltic states, was sold at auction this week due to presumed land lease debts, leaving the future of the studio uncertain.

    The previous owner, JSC Rigas Kinostudija (www.studio.lv), has refused to recognize the auction and intends to continue the legal proceedings that have been ongoing since 2010.

    Riga Film Studio was sold for 1.28m LVL (1.82m EUR) to Leasing & Factoring AB Ltd., a company connected to the landowners Smerla terases Ltd. The sale must be confirmed in court before the new owners can take ownership, which could take up to two years.

    Ieva Romanova, the head of the board of JSC Rigas Kinostudija since this year, confirmed that the company will continue to work in film production with or without the premises. “We will keep on working with our previous partners and clients and we still offer all production services. We hope that we will be able to save Riga Film Studio. The auction will be litigated as the laws have been breached.” She added, “It is especially important to keep Riga Film Studio as a production centre because of the new tax rebate initiative Latvia Film Fund for the foreign filmmakers that will start to operate next year along the already existing Riga Film Fund.”

    At the core of the legal battle for ownership of Riga Film Studio is a presumed land lease debt of over 239,000 LVL (340,000 EUR). Ownership of the studio has changed several times and the initial debt of Rigas Kinostudija was ceded over and finally paid off according to the company. They argue that the landowners are scheming to exact the debt twice. The court baliff disagrees, saying that Rigas Kinostudija “has not paid anything to anyone in years.”

    The value of the well-situated land has also stirred rumours over the underlying reasons for the fight over ownership and the possibility the site could be of more value commercially. A representative of Leasing & Factoring AB Aigars Brecs denied the allegations, promising to keep the film studio running but adding that in its current state – indebted and involved in legal proceedings – the studio cannot function properly and it is better that the land and the buildings have one owner.

    The Riga Film Studio complex includes three large sound stages, set and prop workshops and warehouses as well as administrative buildings. It was built in 1961 and was a bustling production centre throughout Soviet times but collapsed in the 1990’s. Since then it has survived by renting its premises both to small film studios and non-film industry companies, renting out the costumes and props from its vast collections, and hosting local and foreign film, TV and commercial productions.

    The Latvian Ministry of Culture is a minor shareholder of Rigas Kinostudija with 24% of the shares. The Ministry said in a statement to local media Neatkariga that the infrastructure and the sound stages of the film studio should be preserved and used by the film industry to take advantage of the studio's economic potential.