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Sony sets up shop in Russia

Focus likely to be on TV costumers

MOSCOW — Sony looks set to be the first major international player to open its own TV and film production facility in Russia, according to local business daily Kommersant.

Reports, which aren’t being commented on locally, say that the facility should bow Nov. 1 under director general Maria Ma-medova, previously veep for sales at Russia’s leading private TV production facility A-Media.

Production of TV fare will be the initial priority — particularly given that Sony Pictures Television International has been active locally for some time. Working together with A-Media, it produced the original Russian-language costumer telenovelas “Poor Anastasia” and “Talisman of Love,” both aired on popular entertainment terrestrial station CTC.

CTC also worked with SPTI on local versions of “The Nanny,” and launched its fall season with “Born Ugly,” also co-produced with A-Media.

CTC has commissioned 169 episodes of “Born Ugly,” and is already seeing strong ratings returns for its Mon-Fri. 20.00 time slot. “[It] is not only winning its time period, but it’s also CTC’s highest rated show of the year,” stated Alexander Rodnyansky, CEO of CTC Media, predicting future collaborations with SPTI.

“We’re thrilled that in only four weeks on the air, the show has helped increase CTC’s channel average share from 9.7 to 12%.”

Analysts are expecting something of a boom in historically-themed dramas from Russia, destined for TV and/or for some level of theatrical release.

Results for the likes of “Poor Anastasia” proved that Russian costumer telenovelas have decent export potential, and lavish location and costume opportunities are all in place.

A-Media’s latest project, now in its second week on leading national broadcaster Channel One nightly around the 19.00 slot, is “Adjutants of Love,” an early 19th century St. Petersburg-set drama of love, intrigue and war.

With impressive locations and period design, it’s no accident that A-Media topper Alexander Akopov has talked of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” as an example for future projects. “Adjutants” is produced by Akopov together with Channel One’s Anatoly Maximov and Djanik Faisiev, who himself helmed this year’s local B.O. topper 19th-century period feature “The Turkish Gam-bit”).

More historical scripts look to be in the development pipeline too, as other major studios consider entering territory as producers of local-language product. Starting with TV fare, a later move towards feature production as well looks more than likely, according to Channel One’s director general Konstantin Ernst.

The reasons look simple enough — with exposure for and returns from imported product dropping dramatically on Russian screens, engaging in local markets strengthens chances to keep a presence. That can be either on locally licensed and produced series, or — especially with a predicted increase in involvement from foreign specialists — on fare that has every chance of finding a place in markets like Europe and Latin America.

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