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Budapest, hungry for Hollywood

Any executive going to the Cannes Film Festival this month might want to think about staying in Europe a little longer and heading east to Hungary, where Budapest is turning into one of the summer’s filmmaking hot spots.

The country always has enjoyed a strong filmmaking culture - and 20th Century Fox founder William Fox was born there - but it wasn’t as high on Hollywood’s list as such other eastern European locations as Prague or Bulgaria. But with Universal Pictures’ „Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,” directed by Guillermo del Toro, preparing for a June start, and „The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” an adaptation of John Boyne’s Holocaust novel, now shooting, Budapest is enjoying a new Hungarian revolution.

Budapest’s diverse architecture can double for Paris, London or even a medieval setting. It’s also where Steven Spielberg shot part of „Munich.” For „Pajamas,” producer David Heyman said the filmmakers „were able to find a concentration camp that was already in existence, and parts of Budapest serve as a good double for Berlin in the ‘40s, which was exactly what we needed.” Other positives singled out by Budapest supporters are rising prices in Prague and Hungary’s muscular 20% tax rebate on all film production dollars spent in the country.

„The tax break that Hungary offers has helped reduce the costs. ... Prague offers no tax break and has become more expensive,” Heyman said. The city is seeing quite a bit of construction of state-of-the-art studio space, and Los Angeles-based Raleigh Studios plans to join the building boom. It is working on plans in conjunction with Origo Studios to open a facility that will join the ranks of its operations in Hollywood and Baton Rouge. „It makes sense for us geographically and just as a production hub,” Raleigh Studios president Michael Moore said. „They’ve got great crews there, great access to equipment there, it’s very central, and it’s got a great Western sensibility to it.” (