Box office receipts in Russia and theCommonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are growing impressively, according tolatest figures.

The winter release season (from 26 November 2004to 27 February 2005) saw a total gross of $78.5m, 42.2% higher for the periodyear-on-year, according to Russian Film Business Today.

Observers say the growth is a result of morecinemas opening and growing investment in film exhibition, currently one of themost profitable business sectors in the post-Soviet landscape.

During the season, 88 films were released, 27 ofthem on limited release on 10 screens or less.

In general, however, films are getting majorreleases on large numbers of screens. 28 films were shown on 100 or more prints- up from 18 last year. The highest grossing film of the season wasOliver Stone's Alexander, taking nearly $8m.

Domestic blockbuster Turkish Gambit, the $3.5m-budgeted historicalwhodunit, set notable records in the season.

Released wide in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan andUkraine, the film currently holds the post-Soviet record for the widest releaseof any film - on 364 prints.

Gambit also beat horror-fantasy Night Watch's record as the highestgrossing post-Soviet film - Night Watch's total gross was $16m while Gambit is currently at $18m andcounting.

Locally owned and operated distributor Gemini tookthe lion's share of the season's receipts - $13.2m or 16.8% of the totalgross for the season - thanks to its release of Turkish Gambit, which brought the distributor$5.87m during the reporting period. Runners up were UIP with $12.97m (16.5%)and Kaskad with $12.5m (15.9%).

Local films are muscling into the top positionsin the box office chart - four local films made the top ten as opposed to twolast year.

While Gambit is currently tapering off inthe number six slot, two high-profile genre films from Central Partnership areputting in strong performances.

Boxing and crime drama Shadowboxing and The Escape, an action film reminiscent of the HarrisonFord vehicle The Fugitive are respectively third andfourth in the chart.