Berlin ‘Night’ vision

Searchlight kicks off vampire pic campaign

BERLIN — Fox Searchlight Pictures is kicking off its international campaign for Timour Bekmambetov’s Russian vampire blockbuster “Night Watch” with a special screening tonight at the 55th Berlin Intl. Film Festival.

The fantasy pic, penciled for a June opening across Europe, will be Fox’s widest release of a foreign-language movie.

Searchlight picked up worldwide rights outside Russia after the film racked up huge grosses last July in its home territory, out-pointing both “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Spider-Man 2” to take more than $16 million.

It’s the first part of a trilogy. Fox has also committed to release the second installment, “Dusk Watch,” due to open in Russia in September via local distrib Gemini; and to co-produce the third, “Day Watch,” which will be shot in English.

Christian Grass, Fox Intl.’s exec VP Europe, said the plan is to open it on around 200 prints in the U.K., a similar number in Germany and 150 in Italy. France will likely get a bigger release, perhaps 250 prints, because of the territory’s greater acceptance of pics from other European countries.

Searchlight’s U.S. release will come later in the summer.

The f/x-laden movie, which cost $4 million to produce, tells a convoluted quasi-mythic story of an eternal battle between the forces of Light and Darkness, which comes to a head in the dark, grimy streets of contemporary Moscow.

The version for English-speaking territories includes an initial voiceover in Russian-accented English, to explain the mythic underpinning of the plot, and use of subtitles that physically flow and interact with the action. When a vampire speaks of his “hunger,” for example, the word glows blood red on the screen.

Grass said the marketing will be similar to that used successfully on Danny Boyle’s zombie movie “28 Days Later.” “It’s a genre film, and we tried very hard to brand it, so that everything, on the Internet or wherever, is very clearly identifiable with the film.”

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