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Supply glut pushes indie distribs to limit

Russia

MOSCOW — With local product increasing dramatically in quantity, availability of screens looks to be a growing problem for distribs of indie fare in Russia.

Many are diversifying into local production. Top indie player Central Partnership (CP) has long been in the film and TV production business, topping this year’s results to date with its “Wolfhound,” while rival distrib Paradis scored a hit last year with its WWII drama “Scum” and is pushing other production plans forward.

According to Armen Dishdishyan, VP for international sales at CP, that company’s acquisition target is big-budget indie films and a much more specific arthouse market — the former may go out on hundreds of copies, the latter on less than five. That leaves out middle-range pics, he admits.

“With the right business and advertising plans, we can do something with them,” Dishdishyan says. “But we’re looking more to figure with the big films, either those marketed by the studios or based on sequels, or on directors’ names.” CP’s most recent foreign hit, “Taxi 4,” was a case in point, breaking records for Gallic product in the territory.

Prices are going up along with Russia’s growing box office results, which Dish-dishyan notes doesn’t always reflect the wider picture for the indie market. That’s a feeling distinctly shared by other players at the smaller end of the market, too.

That said, there’s growing Russian investment into the indie sector — either in Euro co-productions, such as the ones from investor Thema Prods., which has contributed to the likes of Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” or in fully funded international pics made on Russian coin.

Most recent such examples are Roland Joffe’s “Captivity,” and upcoming “Treasure Raiders,” which screens in the Cannes market, starring Russian expat thesp Alexander Nevsky alongside David Carradine. The English-language pic is skedded for a fall Russian bow, but aimed predominantly at overseas sales.

Though the quantity of Russian pics is up, with approximately 200 releases likely for the next year, they are not dominant at the box office. “I don’t think Russian movies will take more than 25%-30% of the market on average,” Alexander Semenov, publisher of local trade paper Russian Film Business Today, says.

“That only changes when you have a year in which two or three major local pics, highly promoted, grab viewers’ attention. Research shows that viewers are still waiting for Hollywood studio major product — and achieving success with anything else, either indie or Russian fare, is still an uphill battle.”

BOX OFFICE OVERVIEW

Top Film 2006:
“Day Watch,” $34 million
Total B.O.: $345 million
Total number of releases: 293

Recent Pickups
“The Abandoned” (Pyramida)
“Scenes of a Sexual Character” (Russkiy Reportazh)
“The Bigger Picture” (Luxor)
“I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone” (Film Without Frontiers)
“The Invisible” (Paradis)

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