The number of modern cinema screens in Russia is expectedto nearly triple to 1,900 by 2009, according to research published this week.

DodonaResearch's report CinemagoingRussia says that the growth in newshopping complexes is providing locations for entertainment facilities andunderpinning a rapid expansion in the cinema sector.

Several operators have successfully raised investmentfinance over the last year which will result in the development of multiplexcinemas in new shopping and entertainment centres, not only in Moscow and StPetersburg but also other major cities.

Medium-sized circuits are now beginning to emerge, thelargest being Formula Kino with 64 screens followed by Kronverk Cinema with 33,KinoMax with 24, Rising Star Media with 23 and Cinema Park with 15.

To date, National Amusements remains the sole foreigninvestor in the country, although other international circuits have expressedinterest in developing sites in Russia.

Until recently most investment has been concentrated inMoscow, home to 65% of the country's multiplex screens, with the remainder inSt Petersburg.

The Russian government has shown a growing recognition ofthe importance of the domestic film industry with increased support for localproduction, making $57m (RUR1.6bn) available in 2004.

The state is also backing the development of digitalcinema, supporting schemes to use digital technology to take the cinema-goingexperience to the many remote and less-developed parts of the country.

Dodona's Karsten Grummitt commented: "By seeking todevelop the audience for cinema across the whole of Russia, not just for the10% that live in Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia's government is signallingits determination to make the country a significant player in the internationalfilm market and, at the very least, Russia's film industry a big factor in itsdomestic market. In combination with the big investments being made inexhibition, this is going to make Russia one of the fastest-growing markets inthe world for some years to come."