Kazakhstan’s Minister of Culture and Sports RK Arystanbek Mukhamediuly announced earlier this week that the government will be creating a special economic zone at the state-financed Kazakhfilm studio similar to Universal Studios in the United States.
"We [will] initiate the creation of a special economic zone on the territory of Kazakhfilm with a special order of land use, tax and customs taxation,” Mukhamediuly said, according to KazInform.kz.
While the studio houses all of the scenery typically used in Kazakhstani motion pictures, “our goal is to [create] from the territory of Kazakhfilm the semblance of Los Angeles Universal Studios,” the minister explained. According to the Internet Movie Database and Big Cartoon Database, Kazakhfilm has been the place of production for over 80 feature films and cartoon productions since 1961.
Developing Kazakhstan’s film industry further is partially technically and partially related to tourism.
“It will cause great interest in children and tourists. For example, in a year Universal Studios is visited by more than one billion tourists, generating more than $100 million,” Mukhamediuly said.
The push to develop Kazkahstan’s film industry has interest at the very top echelons of the government. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is reportedly considering the creation of another film studio, Astana Film.
“This is the instruction of [Nazarbayev], which will serve as a platform for the concentration of international leaders in the field of the film industry," Mukhamediuly said.
Nazarbayev’s daughter Aliya Nazarbayeva is a film producer and screenwriter. She is currently working on an historical film about Tomyris, a legendary female ruler who is said to have reigned for 50 years over the Massagetae, who once roamed the lands of present-day Kazakhstan, and killed Cyrus the Great of Persia.
Officials are looking for more international recognition and acclaim, something which came earlier this year when a Kazakhstani film was featured at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Kazakhstan produces about 15 full-length motion pictures every year. It has submitted films to the Academy Awards, better known as “the Oscars,” since 2006. Although none of its submissions ever clinched one of the coveted gold statues, Sergei Bodrov's movie Mongol made the shortlist in 2007.
Both local and foreign feature films are shown at over 90 cinemas and 246 screens across the country, although most are Hollywood and international productions. American productions account for the largest share of screenings (46 percent), followed by Russia (27 percent). Kazakhstan’s home-grown industry accounts for six percent. In 2015, box office sales hit a record $47 million, with domestic films accounting for just $3.3 million.
“Attracting private capital and foreign companies to the cinema will enable us to cover almost all priority segments of the economy with adjacent film production: construction, service, entertainment, domestic and foreign tourism, additional jobs, and attracting new technologies and specialists,” Mukhamediuly said.