If the government succeeds in doubling screen numbers in Russia to 5,000, annual admissions could hit 300 million by 2015.

Though the Russian box office fell by 11% in the first quarter of 2011 after a record-breaking billion dollar year in 2010, the Russian film market is predicted to continue its expansion thanks to a juggernaut line-up of US franchise films for the rest of the year, the construction of new cinemas throughout the country and the growing prosperity of the local population. Analysts suggest admissions could hit around 300 million per year by 2015, compared with 165.5 million in 2010.

But at present the country suffers from a lack of screens, with most cinemas located in major cities. Cinemas in Russia’s vast provinces remain scarce and 70% of modern theatres are located in the European part of the country. “I estimate around 50% of the Russian people still have no access to a cinema at all,” says Vladimir Samoilov, general director and co-owner of exhibitor Cinema 1080.

The government plans to double the number of screens from 2,246 in 2011 to 5,000 by 2015, with 3D screens increasing from the present 761 to 1,000.

‘I estimate 50% of the Russian people still have no access to a cinema at all’

Vladimir Samoilov, Cinema 1080

In March, Imax signed a 14-theatre pact with Russian exhibitor Cinema Park, its biggest-ever European deal. Imax and Cinema Park — owned by Russia’s largest media holding company Profmedia — plan to operate in regional markets throughout Russia, expanding the Imax network beyond Moscow and St Petersburg. By the end of 2012 Russia is on course to have 27 Imax locations, making it the company’s third biggest market behind the US and China.

“We see tremendous potential for growth in Russia and the CIS, where we continue to see great exhibitor and consumer enthusiasm for the Imax experience,” said Larry O’Reilly, Imax’s executive vice-president, when announcing the deal.

Sci-fi and stars

Science-fiction and animation films are particularly popular with Russian audiences. Star power also registers: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie-vehicle The Tourist has grossed $18.9m in Russia, the third biggest territory so far for the film after North America ($68m) and China ($20m). Jolie is especially popular in Russia thanks to her role in Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted, which grossed $26.4m in the market.

Home-grown comedies and melodramas can be popular, particularly Fox’s The Irony Of Fate 2, a kind of Russian Big Chill, which is the country’s second biggest hit of all time behind Avatar.

But awareness of European films is particularly low. “Very often Russian viewers just do not know about the existence of and distribution of an interesting European film in Russia,” says Igor Lysenko, director of the VOICES Festival, which aims to introduce European films to Russian audiences. “This is due to a lack of funds for promotion and advertising of these films.”

Similarly, only those local films which are co-produced by leading Russian broadcasters Channel One and Russia TV are given the kind of marketing platform needed to compete with US blockbusters.

Russia top 10, Jan-March 2011

1Fast & Furious 5UPI$27.4m
2Rio20th Century Fox$24.7m
3ThorCentral Partnership$16m
4Just Go With ItWDSMPI/SPRI$13.2m
5Lucky TroubleWDSMPI/SPRI$12.4m
6Sluzhebnyy Roman - Nashe VremyaUPI$11.8m
7RangoCentral Partnership$11.7m
8Season Of The WitchParadise$11.3m
9The Very Best Movie 3DWDSMPI/SPRI$9.8m

Source: Kinopoisk.ru

Top 10 local films, last six years

1The Irony Of Fate 220th Century Fox2008$49.9m
2Admiral20th Century Fox2008$33.7m
3Day WatchGemini2006$32m
4The Very Best FilmCaroprokat2008$27.6m
5The 9th CompanyGemini2005$23.6m
6Six Degrees Of CelebrationBazelevs2011$22.8m
7Our Russia: The Eggs Of FortuneCentral Partnership2010$22.2m
8The Inhabited IslandCaroprokat2009$21.8m
9WolfhoundCentral Partnership2007$20m
10Black LightningUPI2010$19.7m

January 2005-May 2011

Source: Russian Film Business Today

Russia box office top 10, 2010

RankTitle (country of origin)DistributorGross
1Avatar (US)20th Century Fox$117.1m
2Shrek Forever After (US)Central Partnership$51.4m
3Alice In Wonderland (US)WDSMPI/SPRI$42.1m
4The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (US)West$26.3m
5Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (US)Caro Premier$25.3m
6Clash Of The Titans (US)Caro Premier$24.9m
7How To Train Your Dragon (US)Central Partnership$23.5m
8Our Russia: The Eggs Of Fortune (Rus)Central Partnership$22.2m
9Megamind (US)Central Partnership$22.1m
10Tangled (US)WDSMPI$21.9m

Source: Russian Film Business Today

Top 10 independent titles of the last six years

RankTitle (country of origin)DistributorYearGross
1The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (US)West2010$26.4m
2The Twilight Saga: New Moon (US)West2009$18.8m
3The Nutcracker In 3D (US)Central Partnership2011$13.8m
4Taxi 4 (Fr)Central Partnership2007$12.1m
5Season Of The Witch (US)Paradise2011$11.34m
6Transporter 3 (Fr-US)Central Partnership2008$9.4m
7Perfume (Ger)West2006$9.3m
8Asterix At The Olympic Games (Fr-Ger)Central Partnership2008$9.1m
9Sanctum (Aus)Top Film2011$8.7m
10The Mechanic (US)UPI/Leopolis2011$8.2m

January 2005-May 2011

Source: Russian Film Business Today