Producer takes 51% stake in Kino Bez Granits

Russian independent producer Alexander Rodnyansky has taken a majority stake in arthouse distrib Kino Bez Granits.

The deal — fine-tuned in talks between Rodnyansky and KBG founder Sam Klebanov during last month’s Berlin Film Festival — gives Rodyansky’s AR Film a 51% stake in the distrib and the 700 international arthouse titles in its library.

A Sweden-based company, Maywin Films, in which Rodnyanksy will also have a controlling stake, is being set up under the deal to exploit the library rights, which had been jointly owned by KBG and Oleg Chamin’s Nastroyeniye. Chamin will not play a part in the new company, Russian business daily Kommersant reported Monday.

The parties declined to put a value on the deal, but media reports suggest that Kino Bez Granits (which translates as Cinema Without Frontiers) and its library is worth between $10 million and $15 million.

The deal signals Rodnyansky’s interest in exploiting a profitable niche in the local film business. Arthouse movies represent a small part of Russia’s box office. Last year 21 titles released by KBG grossed just over $1.5 million in Russia and the former Soviet territories, excluding Ukraine. The region’s total box office for 2009 was $736 million.

But gross per print for art-house films can be big: “Choke,” a 2008 Sundance fave, took an average of $34,000 per print during its six-print release last year. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” grossed nearly $18.8 million during a 915-print release — an average of $20,500 per print.Klebanov, who founded the distributor 12 years ago and is a well-known figure in the Russian film business — he fronted his own late-night television show about cinema for several years on pubcaster Kultura — stays on as president of KBG and will continue to determine its acquisitions policy.

Rodyansky — who stepped down last year as head of CTC Media, Russia’s leading commercial TV network — produced the country’s most expensive ever film, $40 million sci-fi adventure “Inhabited Island,” which was released last year in two parts. He is also a head of Russia’s festival for local films, Kinotavr.”Kino Bez Granits is a leader in the art-house niche and we have long been familiar with Alexander Rodnyansky — one of the most skilled and successful figures of the Russian media industry,” Klebanov told Variety.

“He loves and understands art-house film. Our partnership will allow us to maintain our leading position and conduct a more aggressive acquisitions and marketing policy to continue to bring to the Russian public the best of world art-house, independent and festival film.”

Rodnyansky said: “The acquisition is a logical step in the development of AR Films. Buying into the most significant Russian art-house distributor helps us diversify our holding — which already includes a production company and the largest national film festival.”

Rodnyansky is currently working with some of Russia’s top indie directors, including Andrey Zvyagintsev (“The Return”) and Fedor Bondarchuk (“Inhabited Island”) and says he aims to create new markets for Russian films in Europe.

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