Here's a suggestion to raise a little extra money and help improve the quality of motion pictures: Institute a variable tax scale in which, say, "A Nightmare on Elm Street X" would be taxed at a much higher rate than "The Little Mermaid," while a movie version of "Swan Lake" wouldn't have to pay any taxes at all. It's not the kind of plan that's liable to be implemented in the United States, certainly -- but it's precisely what was put into effect in the Soviet Union last week in a dramatic restructuring of that country's film industry.
The most profound change was to grant the Soviet Union's biggest film studio, Mosfilm, complete autonomy from Goskino, the state-run film committee; in addition, the studio was given the rights to distribute its entire library of 2,500 films, plus any future movies, without going through Sovexport, the government export agency.
Eventually, according to Mosfilm officials, the company will go public and issue stock, though the uncertainties of the Soviet economy may delay that move for some time. And in one of the most intriguing elements of the restructuring, moviemakers will be granted a series of tax breaks to stimulate quality production -- but those tax breaks will vary in size depending on the genre of movie being made. Children's films, for instance, will be taxed at a lower-than-normal rate; horror movies, on the other hand, will have to pay steeper levies; and movies that deal with ballet and opera will be tax-free.
The Drawing Board
The practice of showing cartoons before feature films made a small comeback recently, first when Disney added new "Roger Rabbit" shorts to "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and "Dick Tracy," and later when the American Multi-Cinema chain began showing Warner Bros. cartoons along with its movies. And now 20th Century Fox and Marvel Productions are taking the trend one step further: They'll create "Fox Toons," animated shorts featuring new characters, to be shown along with Fox movies beginning next summer. Don't expect the most famous animated characters in the Fox family, the Simpsons, to participate.
Schlock and Trade
Things are looking grim at the MIFED film market, now taking place in Milan. In the past MIFED has stood alongside the Cannes Film Festival and the American Film Market as the best place to make deals for movie and video rights -- but now, not only are fewer buyers and sellers than ever before gathered to make such deals, but the feeling is prevalent that the major American studios have already snapped up rights to most of the movies worth seeing. Still, that hasn't stopped the low-budget entrepreneurs who always flock to these events with their slates of imaginatively titled action films. This year's crop, for instance, includes "Kung Fu Vampires," "Magnificent 7 Kung Fu Kids," "Zodiac America 3: Kickboxer From Hell," "9 1/2 Ninjas," "My Wife Is a Zombie" and "Dead Women in Lingerie." The last film, incidentally, comes from Curb Productions, whose chairman is Mike Curb, the former lieutenant governor of California and before that the leader of the Mike Curb Congregation, the squeaky-clean singing group that was Richard Nixon's favorite musical act.
Director Peter Bogdanovich is trying to improve the poor showing of his "Texasville" by urging Columbia Pictures to put the movie on a double bill with the re-release of "The Last Picture Show" in a few cities. But according to some reports, the studio decided against that approach some time ago when it realized that the pairing might emphasize how much better the original film is than its sequel ... Multimillion-dollar price tags are becoming common for action-adventure scripts, but the recent sale of Kathy McWorter's romantic-comedy script "The Cheese Stands Alone" marks the highest price ever paid for a screenplay in that genre -- as well as the first time a script written on speculation by a woman has commanded a seven-figure sum. The 23-year-old McWorter's script is about a handsome Hungarian Gypsy who rejects countless women in his search for Ms. Right but winds up convinced that one spurned suitor has put a hex on him.