Paramount, CP sign Russian pact

Top indie agrees distribution, production deal

RUSSIA — Russia’s booming film industry got a major boost Monday when Paramount Pictures Intl. and the country’s top indie shingle Central Partnership unveiled a ground-breaking distribution and production deal.

The “strategic alliance” between one of Hollywood’s biggest global players and Central Partnership — a Moscow-based company founded in 1996 — covers theatrical distribution of Paramount releases in Russia and regional markets and allows for Paramount’s participation in local production activities.

The deal — the first of its kind between an independent Russian company and a major U.S. studio — also gives Paramount the option to distribute select Central Partnership productions internationally.

The alliance, which covers Russia and surrounding territories excluding the Baltics and Ukraine, comes into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Paramount Pictures Intl. prexy Andrew Cripps paid tribute to the strength of the Russian film industry — which is growing by around 15% annually and last year notched up $565 million at the domestic box office — and Central Partnership’s place in it.

“This is a step change for Paramount in one of the fastest growing and most exciting markets internationally. Central Partnership has positioned itself as one of the most impressive players locally in both distribution and production. We are very proud to be associated with them and look forward to continuing to grow and expand Paramount’s presence in Russia,” Cripps said in a statement.

Ruben Dishdishyan, president and CEO of Central Partnership — which last year was the top indie distributor in Russia and ranked in the top three overall with theatrical takings of $85 million giving it just over 15% of the total Russian box office, called the Paramount deal a “key milestone” in the company’s history.

“This agreement will let us substantially expand our portfolio due to the high quantity motion pictures supplied by Paramount Pictures and boost our mutual positions in the Russian and CIS film distribution market. This partnership opens the new horizons for our companies in the area of co-production and promotion of the Russian cinema in the global market,” Dishdishyan added.

Paramount’s first release through Central Partnership will be “Revolutionary Road” from director Sam Mendes at the end of January.

Other movies lined up for release next year under the deal include: DreamWorks Pictures’ “Hotel for Dogs,” by Thor Freudenthal, “Friday 13th,” directed by Mark Nispel and produced by Michael Bay, and “Watchmen,” based on the graphic novel and directed by Zack Snyder.