Bekmambetov pic breaks records

'Night Watch' sequel 'Day Watch' captures $13.6 mil

Russia’s film industry entered the New Year on another all-time high, as Timur Bekmambetov’s “Day Watch” broke local records in the week after its Jan. 1 bow.

The sequel to helmer’s “Night Watch,” which topped the charts in 2004 and began its international release last autumn, took in $13.6 million on ticket sales of 3.5 million through Jan. 7 in Russia and Kazakhstan. In the first nine days, “Day Watch” brought in $20.3 million in all ex-USSR territories, including the Ukraine.

Pic went out on a record 580 prints.

With Russian venues regularly sold-out and the film in release through to the end of January, it’s certain to top last year’s local number one, Fyodor Bondarchuk’s Afghan war drama “9th Company,” which brought in around $24 million.

Given follow-on buzz from the first pic, as well as extensive promotion — there’s hardly a Moscow street that has no advertising presence — result wasn’t a surprise. But the decision made by pic’s producers, Konstantin Ernst and Anatoly Maximov of Channel One, and distributor Gemini Film to release the pic on New Year’s Day has paid off: Every day from Jan. 1 to Jan. 9 is a local public holiday.

That also made for a high-profile premiere at 2.00 a.m. on Jan. 1, with around 3,000 guests coming to a main central Moscow venue, the Oktyabr cinema, for a first screening running simultaneously in all nine screens of the plex, followed by a reception.

Guests were greeted by cast and others descending from the stage’s ceiling in darkness, with the only light coming from the torches which are one of the film’s motifs. Only helmer Bekmambetov was absent, speaking by telephone link from Los Angeles.

Producers have broadened the appeal of fantasy-action-thriller “Night Watch” by adding romance and comedy to “Day Watch.” Both are scripted from fantasy novels by Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko, though Bekmambetov removed various strands of the scribe’s original text.

“Day Watch” opens with grandiose historical scenes from Central Asia and the time of Tamerlane that introduce a key plot element — the “chalk of fate,” a magic device that can reverse the path of events, and allows hero Anton Gorodetsky to avert dramatic scenes of apocalypse that lay waste to a vividly-depicted contemporary Moscow.

CG effects are stronger even than in “Night Watch,” assembled as in the first film by working with a number of smaller effects houses around Russia and Ukraine.

International release of “Day Watch” will come through Fox Searchlight, which has scored more than $15 million to date on its “Night Watch” release, so far in more than 20 mainly European markets. Best results to date have come from Germany and Spain, with key territories including Japan, Korea and North America following this year.

Bekmambetov is due to shoot an English-language concluding film to what’s become a “Watch” trilogy in a collaboration between Fox and Russian producers. Before that he’s due to shoot his next film, “Wanted,” for Universal.

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