Audiences awed by local efforts

Moviegoing was up healthily this year, confirming Russia as the fastest growing territory in the world. Local films accounted for a high percentage of the market, though not as high as it had looked early in the year.

Total grosses should top out at $425 million, excluding Ukraine, which is now tabbed separately, and that territory, also fast-growing, should bring in around $30 million.

Those figures would be a hike of almost 30% over last season, according to Alexander Semenov, publisher of trade weekly Russian Film Business Today.

A plex building boom has fueled the box office for the last couple of years, not only in Russia but also in surrounding territories.

Locally made movies, which will likely account for 30% of the overall haul, were led by Timur Bekmambetov’s “Day Watch,” which was released wide last Jan. 1 and raked in an unprecedented $35 million. And that was before it opened internationally through Fox Searchlight.

That timing and strategy proved so successful it’s set to be mirrored this holiday season by another local film, Nikolai Lebedev’s “Wolfhound.” This film has equally dramatic special effects and goes into equally wide release New Year’s Day through producer-distrib Central Partnership.

The performance of Hollywood product was more unpredictable, not least because the studios have increasingly been transferring local representation into their own hands — a process that hasn’t always been amicable.

For its new local Fox outfit, “Ice-Age 2″ brought in a healthy $17 million. As a general rule, family-friendly films do rather better locally than actioners: The grosses were almost thrice the take of any other of the studio’s releases.

“Pirates of the Caribbean 2″ pulled in $27.5 million. BVI’s partnership with local distrib Kaskad has just been dissolved. It’ll be interesting to see whether direct representation will bring in better results on the next installment of that franchise.

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