Bigger B.O. attracts Hollywood PR machine

The number of Hollywood stars treading the red carpet at Russian premieres has increased as the country’s box office has skyrocketed.

Grosses that hit $830 million in 2008 dipped to $735 million last year on the back of the ruble’s devaluation. But box office receipts were actually up in terms of rubles.

That success on the local scene has gotten the attention of Hollywood and its PR troops. Angelina Jolie was in Russia for this summer’s opening of “Salt,” in which she plays a Russian-born double agent. A scene in the film in which Jolie speaks briefly in Russian before returning to English won applause from local audiences.

The film did $10.7 million worth of business in Russia and former Soviet territories (excluding Ukraine) in the near six weeks of its 704-print release after Jolie’s star turn in late July on the red carpet at Moscow’s Oktyabr Theater.

Although the trend has become more noticeable in recent years, stars having been making their way to Moscow for longer than that.

Bob Van Ronkel, prexy of Doors to Hollywood, with offices in Moscow and Beverly Hills, can claim some credit for that.

Von Ronkel has been putting stars and events together for 10 years and moved to Moscow in late 2002.

He brought Jolie and her manager, Geyer Kosinski, over to Moscow for the “Salt” bow.

Leading distributors in Russia, including Sony, Central Partnership (which has a strategic partnership with Paramount) and 20th Century Fox, have all begun to tap increased star power to help market their movies.

“Sony and Central Partnership know me well, because when many of the stars, directors and producers come for their premiers in Russia, many of them are my friends, or know one of my friends in Hollywood that tells them to contact and spend time with me in Moscow,” Von Ronkel says.

“We get a lot of benefit from the talent tours to Moscow as we get very wide coverage on TV and in the press,” says Natalia Staleva, head of publicity at Sony Pictures Releasing, CIS. “We plan to bring more actors and film director in the future especially the ones who has never been in Moscow before.”

The recent visit of Eva Mendes, Mark Walhberg and Will Ferrell for “The Other Guys” had yielded plenty of local media coverage, she adds.

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