Biopic takes $20 mil in two weeks

A film about Russia’s answer to Bob Dylan, singer-songwriter-thesp Vladimir Vysotsky, has taken a record $20 million in its first two weeks in the territory.

“Vysotsky — Thank God I Am Alive,” the first feature about the star who died of heart failure age 42 in 1980, is the top Russian box office opener of the year.

The biopic has taken almost as much since its Dec. 1 release as the top-grossing local movie of the previous 12 months, Timur Bekmambetov’s comedy “Yolki,” did in its theatrical run — $22.8 million in Russia and neighboring former Soviet states.

Produced with Sony’s Russian joint venture, Monumental Pictures, the movie was released across Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan on 1,400 screens and simultaneously in a 19-screen release Germany, where it grossed €126,000 ($167,000).

Producer Anatoly Maksimov told Variety the film, which tackles the sacred cow of modern Russian culture, has polarized its audience “with an ecstatic reaction from some and disgust from others.”

However, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has given “Vysotsky” two thumbs up, saying, “It really is a great film. I want to express my gratitude to the actors, producers and director.”

A local film is also breaking box office records in Serbia. Controversial gay-themed “The Parade” has taken more than $1 million since its release last month, to become the territory’s top grossing local pic.

Srdjan Dragojevic’s black comedy, about the lack of gay rights in the notoriously homophobic Balkans state, was co-produced by Mike Downey of London’s Film and Music Entertainment.

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