20th Century Fox has unveiled its plans to build a global blockbusterfranchise out of Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch (Nochnoj dozor), theRussian-language smash hit vampire thriller, playing at the Berlinale tomorrownight as a special screening.

Last summer the studio bought worldwide rights (excluding Russia and theBaltic States) to the movie, which took over $16m at the local box office tobecome the highest grossing in Russian history. It also wound up as thecountry's submission for the foreign language film Oscar.

Fox also bought worldwide rights to the currently-shooting sequel DayWatch and plans to co-develop, co-finance and release a third,English-language installment called Dusk Watch with First Channel, theRussian company which made the first two.

Christian Grass, Fox International's executive vice president of Europe,Middle East and Africa, yesterday revealed that the studio's internationaldistribution infrastructure is planning to give the film one of the largest,most aggressive international releases ever for a foreign-language film inadvance of its US release in the late summer.

A tentative June release date has been set for Night Watch in allmajor European territories - precisely the time frame the studio chose forDanny Boyle's English-language movie 28 Days Later outside the UK.

The UK release will be on approximately 200 prints. The German releasewill be on 200 prints. In Italy, the release will be on 150 prints and inFrance, the film will go out on at least 250 prints. Fox is also planning amarketing campaign akin to the one it mounted for 28 Days Later,complete with teaser trailers and teaser posters.

"We want to pursue this aggressively," Grass said. He pointedto the success of films like Zhang Yimou's Hero in both the US and UK asevidence that "foreign language is much more accepted now than it was afew years ago. The markets have changed and we hope to ride on this wave."

Fox Searchlight will handle US distribution of the first two films, butthe third film will be released by Fox's main distribution division in the US.

The Night Watch trilogy is based on books by Sergei Lukyanenko,exploring what happens when a 1000 year truce between the forces of good andevil, who respectively control day and night, ends on the Moscow streets.

"(Night Watch) is a spectacular, epic fantasy-adventure from the newRussia," Grass said. "It has its own unique style and attitude."

Fox's acquisition of the three films underlines just how lucrative theRussian market is becoming. "It is now the six biggest market in Europeafter Italy," Grass said. "It is a very exciting market for localfilmmaking." Grass confirmed that Fox is on the look-out for furtherRussian pick-ups.