Central scores with Paramount pact

Alliance reflects growing global cooperation

Central Partnership’s strategic alliance with Paramount Pictures Intl. reflects both the trend toward greater international cooperation in the Russian film business and the Moscow-based indie production and distribution outfit’s own approach to maintaining its position in a cutthroat market.

For a company launched just over a decade ago, Central’s progress has been rapid.

Priding itself on its Western-style approach to business, with a clear ownership and corporate structure, and an international understanding of the importance of transparency in business, Central was an obvious target for Par’s move into the Russian market.

“Basically, Paramount saw a company that they could work with; we demonstrated that we could effectively offer them access to a key portion of the Russian theatrical distribution market,” says Armen Dishdishian, Central Partnership’s U.S.-educated exec VP of international.

As Russia’s top indie distributor — it is in fifth place for 2008 to date with some $45 million in B.O., giving it around 7% market share — and as producer of as much as 50% of Russian domestic product, the company offers an attractive entrance to the Russian market.

“As distributors and producers of local films, we see the alliance with Paramount as a win-win deal,” Dishdishian says.

Under the pact, Paramount has market access for its product through an established local distributor, and Central Partnership earns an opportunity to co-produce films with a major partner that can also offer wider international prospects for appropriate productions.

“Film production budgets are increasing in Russia, and anything that costs more than around $6 million presents a big risk, as few local films do more than $13 million in business at the box office,” Dishdishian notes. “Having a significant partner is important.”

The two companies have not yet agreed on any specific co-productions, although Central is bringing projects to Par’s attention with a view to agreeing on producing some next year, Dishdishian says.

Like other Western interests working in Russia, the key goal for any local co-productions will be to make films aimed at the Russian market, with any international prospects playing a secondary role.