Afghan war drama scooped $26 million at local B.O

MOSCOW — Fyodor Bondarchuk’s Afghan war drama “9th Company” has been selected as Russia’s entry in the foreign language film category of the Academy Awards.

It is almost a year since the pic’s release. Last September, it hadn’t played the required week in local theaters, but the territory’s judging committee, headed by Vladimir Menshov, have returned to the crowdpleaser rather than more arty fare.

The movie, which scooped almost $26 million at the local B.O., doubled its original budget to come in at almost $10 million. Production came from local Slovo outfit, with investment from Russian TV channel CTC, and Ukraine’s 1+1. Most of the impressive action scenes were shot in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Menshov, himself a past Oscar winner with 1980’s “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears,” told local press that 14 pics had been under consideration, including out-and-out arthousers like Pavel Lungin’s “The Island,” which closed this year’s Venice festival, as well as Boris Khlebnikov’s “Free Floating,” which also appeared on the Lido.

Box office leader of the year so far, Timur Bekmambetov’s “Day Watch,” didn’t make the final grade. The experi-ence of its predecessor “Night Watch,” picked by Russia two years ago, suggests that commercial, especially fantasy fare, isn’t best placed to attract Academy voters.

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