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Ballooning prod’n costs spur need for outside coin

Russia

A new wave of local product vying for screens and dramatically rising prices for TV ads are driving up the release costs of bigger indie product in Russia. These are two of the key problems facing Russian buyers headed to the American Film Market, according to Armen Badalyan of distrib Paradis.

Both Paradis and rival Central Partnership — the only major Russian entity to be touting pics at AFM rather than just acquiring them, with 10 pics screening — are pressing on strongly with local production.

Central Partnership is the most active local production house, producing both film and prestige TV projects.

Some co-productions have emerged from the territory, including “Alexandra,” produced by St. Petersburg’s ProLine Films and France’s Rezo Films (which reps the title at AFM).

Helmed by arthouse vet Alexander Sokurov, pic stars opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya as a woman visiting her grandson while he’s on active duty in Chechen capital Grozny. The Franco-Russian project has state funding from both nations. Pic is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Russia isn’t the most active when it comes to international co-productions, but significant pre-sales to the territory achieve almost the same investment, notes Paradis’ Badalyan, whose company has several major local productions in the works. Presale prices being paid can be impressive — from $2 million-$3 million for a midbudget pic, up to as much as $5 million-$7 million for bigger pics.

Sales in the other direction aren’t as lucrative, and pre-sales of Russian product to foreign territories are very much the exception rather than the rule. Paradis’ WWII kid drama “Scum” has had some interest from major European markets, but so far hasn’t fetched big minimum guarantees.

Central Partnership sells a fair amount of its fare to more sympathetic markets in Eastern Europe as well as Asia, but its blockbusters haven’t reaped big acquisitions numbers on the international market so far.

In terms of the local theatrical market, Paradis scored one of the year’s biggest grossers with “Scum,” which topped the $10 million mark. Distrib is aided by the fact that it controls some 22 cinema screens under its 5 Stars miniplex brand, with ambitious plans to triple that number in the coming two to three years.

Foreign arthouse product is finding it tough going in the Russian market, according to Sam Khlebanov of distrib Cinema Without Borders. He says sellers’ expectations of higher prices based on the top end of the market don’t apply to specialty films that don’t always achieve important TV deals.

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