Day Watch, the firstsequel to Russian horror fantasy thriller NightWatch, has followed its predecessor and broken box office records in Russia and theCentral Independent States (CIS) in record time.

Distributedby Gemini Film the sequel was released on New Year's Day in Russia and hadearned $25.9m as of January 16, making it the highest grossing film of all timein the territory beating Fyodor Bondarchuk's AfghanWar drama Company 9 ($25.6m).

Theever-expanding market, which saw 25% market growth last year, has seen asuccession of record-setters in the past 18 months. Night Watch, which opened in July 2004, was the first of recentlocal titles to set a new record taking $16.03m in Russia and the CIS,but saw its final grosses surpassed last year by Turkish Gambit and Company 9.

Day Watch also enjoyedthe widest release ever in Russia and the CISat 589 prints. Reviewers in the territory unanimously rated it as qualityescapist entertainment similar to Hollywood fare such as Underworld and Constantine, with tightdirection and special effects that measure up to Hollywood standards.

Thefilm's $3m advertising campaign was unprecedented in its size and scope,featuring ubiquitous poster advertising in major cities, numerous TV spotsgiven the film's pedigree as a product of the biggest state television channel,Channel One Russia and more cinema teasers and trailers than for a majorHollywood release.

Afactor that helped the film overtake its predecessors in record time was therelatively new, New Year's holidays in Russia which cameinto effect in 2004. These last until January 10, effectively giving the filmfive weekends in ten days. Channel One Russia PR Director Igor Burenkov contends that all of these factors had equalweight in the film's success.

Night Watch has earned$31.74m worldwide to date and is Russia's biggestfilm export to date having been bought for distribution outside Russia and the CISby 20th Century Fox International. It is released in North America through FoxSearchlight for Presidents' Day Weekend on February 17.

Thethird and final instalment in the trilogy, written and directed by Timur Bekmambetov and based onnovels by Sergei Lukyanenko,Dusk Watch is expected to be releasedin 2007.