Lack of local blockbuster drags down takings

MOSCOW — Russian B.O. takings in December were down by a third and admissions were down by nearly half compared with the same period the previous year.

Consumer fears over the growing recession, a lack of crowd-pulling Russian blockbusters and a plunging ruble rate against the dollar all dented turnstile figures, pulling box office down from $53 million in December 2007 to $35 million in December 2008.

Admissions were down 45% from 9.5 million in December 2007 to 5.2 million in December 2008.

In Russia, December is considered the first month of the industry’s annual accounting period, giving the figures an added poignancy locally.

Trade in January is suffering too, with auds predicted to be down by up to 35%, year on year.

The figures suggest the box office total for this year may struggle to match last year’s record breaking $830 million, Alexander Semenov, publisher of Russian Film Business Today, which collated the numbers, told Variety.

“December figures are down and it looks like January will be too. A key difference is that last year the tentpole movie “Irony of Fate 2” — which opened Dec. 20 — was hugely popular and there has been nothing comparable this holiday season,” Semenov said.

“December and January are key months and poor performance now may mean that 2009 box office could be weaker than last year.”

None of the three top Russian films on release are likely to approach “Irony of Fate 2” — a remake of a classic Soviet movie that took a record breaking $50 million at home.

“Inhabited Island” — the first part of a two-part sci-fi adventure that is Russia’s most expensive movie ever, costing nearly $40 million to make — had taken $20.8 million by Jan. 18; comedy “Lubov-Morkov 2” has amassed $17.6 million; and musical “Stilyagi” has grossed $15.4 million.

Central Partnership, the Moscow distribution company handling “Stilyagi,” said that despite the tough market conditions it was pleased with the results for the film, which the first Russian musical to be produced since Soviet times.

The pic, known internationally as “Boogie Bones” or “Hipsters” and set in Moscow during the 1950s when music crazy youngsters go against the gray Communist grain to dress up and dance the nights away to home-made copies of rock and roll tracks, was jointly produced by Valery Todorovsky’s Red Arrow company and state television channel Rossiya on a budget of $14 million.

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