Russian indie says foreign pics too expensive

MOSCOW — Russian indie distributor Pyramid has been forced to suspend operations due to tough market conditions, the Moscow-based company said Wednesday.

The company said steep prices for foreign independent films and difficulty competing with Hollywood and Russian blockbusters had forced it from the distribution market.

It will continue to run the production side of its business, making television drama serials for major Russian broadcasters and feature films.

Last year, Pyramid achieved a 1.9% market share on box office of $13.5 million, with films that included animated sci-fi comedy “Space Chimps,” which took $2.5 million.

“We have suspended the distribution side of our business until market conditions improve,” a spokeswoman for the company told Variety.

High prices and a shift in audience appetite in Russia away from small independent fare to big domestic and foreign blockbusters were to blame she said, adding that the company would return to distribution if prices came down in the future.

Sam Klebanov, founder of art house distributors Cinema Without Frontiers, said Pyramid’s collapse reflected a market in which prices for foreign indie product had been driven “sky high.”

Increased activity by the Hollywood majors — all of which, apart from Warner Bros., now had their own Russian distribution arms — and recent devaluations of the ruble against the dollar was making life for indie distributors much harder.

“Of course, it is an opportunity for other players when one goes down — there is a void to fill,” Klebanov said, adding that his company had taken on Pyramid’s former head of distribution, Tatiana Rumakina, to head up a new mainstream division of Cinema With Frontiers, Nastroyenie Kino.

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