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Russia: Yanks rank at B.O. while local indies struggle

Cannes Territory Report: Russia

Russian box office remains dominated by Hollywood blockbusters, with indie fare squeezed by lack of screen space at the major exhibition chains.

Last year’s record-breaking box office gross of just over $1 billion was boosted by massive business for tentpoles including “Avatar” ($117 million) “Shrek Forever After” ($51 million) and “Alice in Wonderland” ($42 million).

Top-grossing international indie was “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” which took just over $26 million; that was followed by Russian comedy franchise “Our Russia: Balls of Fate,” which grossed over $22 million, and sci-fi adventure “Black Lightning,” which took more than $19 million.

They were the exceptions for local and indie fare: 69 Russian films, including co-prods, grossed a total of $154 million, just 14.5% of total box office, down from $176 million in 2009, and only six films covered costs and made a profit.

Initial figures for 2011 suggest that to do well an indie film needs to have the backing of a local Russian mini-major. Moscow and Los Angles-based producer and director Timur Bekmambetov’s production and distribution shingle Bazelevs grossed nearly $23 million with its New Year holiday film “Yolki,” which he co-directed; Nash Kino — one of the eight big Russian production and distribution companies that shares in an annual $64 million in state film fund soft money — grossed over $19 million with toon “How Not to Rescue a Princess.”

By comparison, international indie fare such as “The Men Who Stare at Goats” did just under $2.7 million in business.

VITAL STATS
Total 2010 box office: $1.055 billion
Total 2010 releases: 338
Top 2010 indie film: “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” $26.3 million
Top 2011 indie pickups:
“A Little Bit of Heaven,” AT Group
“Another Year,” Volga
“Fair Game,” Paradise
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil,” Luxor
“Final Destination 5,” Caro Premier