‘Wolfhound’ charges Russian gate

Film opened on an unprecedented 640 prints Dec. 28

MOSCOW — Russia’s rapidly growing film industry looks set for a new injection of B.O. energy this New Year season with the largest release ever in the territory for Slavic fantasy pic “Wolfhound” by helmer Nikolai Lebedev.

Pic opened on an unprecedented 640 prints Dec. 28 in Russia and surrounding CIS and Baltic territories — including a day-and-date release in Bulgaria.

Distrib Central Partnership is looking to follow on the lucrative release strategy of 2006’s top grosser, Timur Bekmambetov’s “Day Watch,” which filled local venues over the 10-day New Year holiday season celebrated in Russia (it ultimately took in around $35 million).

This year’s competition will likely be fiercer, however, as producers have learned the lesson of “Day Watch’s” success — and another local pic, actioner “Heat,” is following the same path.

“Wolfhound,” a fantasy-themed adaptation of a bestselling local trilogy from scribe Maria Semenova with a vague “Lord of the Rings” feel, so far hasn’t earned kudos from Russian critics.

It’s a major project for the territory, three years in the making, with a production budget of around $10 million, according to Armen Dishdishyan, international VP for producer/distrib Central Partnership.

Shoot of around 100 days was divided between mountain locations in Slovakia and elaborate sets at local facility Mosfilm and other Russian studios. Extensive special effects work went to various local providers, with sound editing and post handled in London and Sweden.

Around $6 million has been set aside for local P&A, though part of that figure is in typical in-kind deals with local TV; the film will go out on local commercial channel NTV in mid-2007.

Dishdishyan is optimistic on the international sales front, with around 30 territories already sold, the majority with theatrical distribution guarantees. Eastern Europe is fully covered, as are some Latin American and Asian countries.

Other international distribs who haven’t yet made up their minds will get the chance to see the final version at screenings during the Berlin film market.