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Russian lawyers’ dream: battle over TV ‘Space’

Webs disputing the tube rights to Uchitel pic

MOSCOW — Russian helmer Alexei Uchitel probably never dreamed his latest film would cause so many legal headaches.

After “Dreaming of Space” won top honors at the Moscow Film Festival in June, he inked a deal with pubcaster Rossiya for a Nov. 15 first transmission, only to see “Space” broadcast in two parts on rival Channel One starting Sept. 21.

Both sides are now disputing the TV rights.

Uchitel’s Rock Studio made the film with backing from territory’s Federal Agency for Culture and Cinema; another entity, KinoArtStudio, also pledged funding in return for TV rights, but reps from Rock told local press the latter coin never came through.

Nevertheless, KinoArtStudio concluded a deal with Moscow’s Telecommunication and Media Committee, which in turn sold TV rights to Channel One, Russia’s broadcasting leader.

Uchitel denies any connection to the Channel One version, stating it was based on an early DVD edit.

“Two versions may exist,” Uchitel said. “But the creators of the film are sitting in front of you, and they never made a second version of the film.”

“The best interpretation is that it’s a major legal mix-up that will eventually be resolved through the courts,” one industry insider says. “But it certainly looks very strange, given that these are Russia’s two top broadcasters, and they both know what the other is doing — not to mention the fact that major funding support came from state sources.”

Initial arbitration hearings on the question were due to start in Moscow Oct. 21 but were deferred.

Lawyer Vladimir Sevak, who’s representing Rock Studio, tells Variety that he’s pursuing two separate cases against KinoArtStudio and the Moscow Telecommunication and Media Committee respectively, with hearing dates yet to be set.

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