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Bekmambetov’s ‘Yolki’ hits home run

Christmas comedy scores $21 million in Russia

LONDON — “Wanted” director Timur Bekmambetov scored a home run in Russia after his new local-language Christmas comedy “Yolki” took more than $21 million at the box office following its release last month.

Bekmambetov, now in pre-production in Hollywood on a sequel to “Wanted” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer,” is planning a 3D sequel for next Christmas after “Yolki” took more than any Russian film on local release since 2007.

“For a film with a modest budget — around $5 million — and none of the television promotion that other Russian films often enjoy, this was a great success,” Irena Nazarova, spokeswoman for Bekmambetov’s Moscow-based production shingle Bazelevs, told Variety.

A comedy set in 11 different cities across Russia, involving a bizarre cast of characters that include a little girl, the President of Russia, a taxi driver and a pop diva, “Yolki” — which means “Christmas tree” in Russian — was a tonic for the local industry in a year that saw local films’ share of an overall box office of $1 billion slump to 15%.

The film out-performed the New Year offering of another Hollywood-based Russian director, Andrei Konchalovsky’s “The Nutcracker in 3D,” which cost a reported $90 million, but took just over $12 million.

Russian cartoon “Three Heroes and the Shamakhanskay Queen,” released just before the New Year — Russia’s major holiday — took nearly $17 million, Russian business daily Kommersant reported.

Hollywood releases “Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Tourist” — took $11 million and $10 million during their first week at the cinemas, figures from Russian Film Business Today show.

The Russian market remains a strong one for Hollywood fare: Disney’s take on the Rapunzel fairy tale, “Tangled,” released well before the holidays, has taken $23 million after six weeks, and Narnia tale “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” nabbed $19 million over the past month.