Bekmambetov's sequel takes in $20 million

MOSCOW — 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 $20 million through Jan. 9 in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Pic went out on a record 580 prints, including Ukraine and other ex-USSR territories.

With Russian venues regularly sold out and the film in release through the end of January, it’s certain to top last year’s local No. 1 pic, Fyodor Bondarchuk’s Afghan war drama “9th Company,” which brought in around $24 million.

Given buzz from the first pic, as well as extensive promotion — there’s hardly a Moscow street that doesn’t advertise the pic — result wasn’t a surprise.

Further, 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 was a local public holiday.

That also made for a high-profile premiere at 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, with 3,000 guests at Moscow’s Oktyabr cinema, followed by a reception.

Guests were greeted by cast members descending from the stage’s ceiling in darkness, lit only by the torches that 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.

“Day Watch” opens with historical scenes from Central Asia 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 an apocalypse that lays waste to a vividly depicted contemporary Moscow.

International release of “Day Watch” will come through Fox Searchlight, which has scored more than $15 million with its release of “Night Watch” in more than 20 markets, mostly European. 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 the “Watch” trilogy in collaboration with Fox and Russian producers. Before that, he’s due to shoot his next film, “Wanted,” for Universal.

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