Arthouse suffers in Russia

Territory is graveyard for specialty pics

SOCHI, RUSSIA — Russia is one of the world’s worst markets for arthouse cinema, research by one of the country’s top niche film distributors shows.

Audiences are 42 times less likely to go to see an arthouse film — such as Lee Daniels’ “Precious” or the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” — in Russia than in Spain.

The genre is 29 times more popular in Norway and four times more in Mexico, figures collated by Sam Klebanov president of arthouse distributor Cinema Without Borders (Kino Bez Granits) show.

Klebanov, a mathematician by training, compared box-office figures for a dozen arthouse hits, including past winners from festivals such as Cannes and Berlin, in a range of territories in Europe, the U.S., Latin America and South Korea.

Klebanov, who corrected raw box-office figures for population and purchasing power parity, found that virtually every other territory studied Russia came out worse for arthouse films.

Israeli director Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” — which was nominated for an Oscars last year and won numerous awards worldwide — took just $23,000 at the Russian box office. In Italy it made $1 million.

“Precious” was an arthouse hit in America, where it took more than $47 million. In Russia, it did less than $23,000 in theatrical business.

But when figures for Hollywood blockbusters such as “Avatar,” “2012”

and others were compared the picture was almost exactly the opposite: only America and Germany were bigger markets for blockbusters than Russia, with mainstream films taking $366 million last year compared with $456 million in Germany and $2.1 billion in the U.S.

Klebanov, who released the figures at Russia’s national Kinotavr film festival in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, said: “We are from a country with one of the highest cultural levels in the world but we are ignoring both Europe and the rest of the world’s cinematic culture.”

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