Russia: Screen competish heats up

Territory Reports

B.O. cume: (through August): $281 million
Top title: “Turkish Gambit” (Gemini Film, $19.3 million)

“The Descent” (Luxor)
“Happy Endings” (Central Partnership)
“Last Days” (PanTerra)
“Proof” (West)
“An Unfinished Life” (Paradis)

“Shadow-Boxing”: Boxing actioner, from established TV helmer Alexei Sidorov, stars Denis Nikiforov, Yelena Panova and Andrey Panin. Released by Central Partnership locally to B.O. of $8.5 million in Russia and neighboring territories. Screening. (Sales: Central Partnership)
“Mars”: Melancholic but critically acclaimed comedy from first-time director Anna Melikyan, whose second pic, drama “The Mermaid,” is in production (latter also repped at AFM). (Sales: Central Partnership)
“Wolfhound”: A big-budget Slavic fantasy drama, heavy on visual f/x, by Nikolai Lebedev (“The Star”). In post. (Sales: Central Partnership)

MOSCOW — Russian indie distribs are learning the importance of juggling release dates as competition for screen space increases.

Screens are in demand not only for an expanding influx of studio product, but also a dramatic increase in local films. A current market share of around 22% for local pics is projected to grow to 30%-35% over the next year.

The increase in multiplex development in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and its impact across the country, might be bringing new audiences, but screens for indie product — especially from abroad — remain hard to come by.

“The right marketing and positioning strategies are more crucial than ever … (in) competitive times,” says international department exec at Paradis Film, Vladimir Talalaev.

Talalaev notes disappointing second-weekend results for Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver,” which was up against a massive marketing campaign mounted for top local pic “9th Company.”

With Paradis controlling six miniplexes in Moscow and surrounding regions, it ensures its product screen access — an advantage that most other players don’t have.

Central Partnership, which will be presenting a range of projects at the American Film Market, holds the No. 4 spot at the B.O. this year courtesy of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” ($9 million). However, its most competitive releases over coming months look set to be local productions.

For the likes of alternative players such as Cinema Without Borders’ Sam Klebanov, distribution options look to be shrinking. He notes that Russia’s higher profile as a distribution territory has, in turn, skyrocketed asking prices.

For Klebanov, ancillary sales are equally as important as theatrical results. Televisions sales for smaller indie fare, particularly to national channels, remain limited. Complicating things further is a possible profile change for Russia’s No. 6 station, Ren-TV, which has been one of the most eager buyers of specialty product.

For now, Klebanov is fighting legal details of a mandatory print deposit issue with Russia’s national film archives. Single-print releases of indie fare can bring in decent results when phased in around the country over six months or so — but not if the archive’s unwilling to loan the print concerned, or is charging an arm and a leg for it.

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