Kodak is selling its landmark central Moscow cinema Kino Mir at the beginning of next year to concentrate on its core business. The sale of the high-profile site which often accounted for a staggering 50% of the total box office profits for the whole of the country, is a sign of improvement in the Russian exhibition business over the last five years. National box office has grown from less than $10m to $50m last year and this year is already 30% ahead of 2000 with the steadily growing economy fuelling the increase.

Kodak's first venture into exhibition, Kino Mir was a pilot project intended to kick-start the struggling Russian cinema business. When it opened in 1996 Russian cinemas were cold, damp and usually empty. Investors were unwilling to sink scarce dollars into building new cinemas. But Kodak's single screen, 570-seat cinema which offered the first modern entertainment facilities in Russia proved that cinemas could be profitable.

"Kodak Kino Mir was a test case for the Russian cinema industry," said Jana Silivanova, director of business development for Kodak Entertainment Imaging for Russia, "when the cinema opened in 1996 it was the first and only modern cinema in the country. There are now 30 modern screens in Moscow and we feel that we have fulfilled our mission."

Kodak invested $1.8m in the single screen cinema in central Moscow. Its only remaining cinema is a four plex in Shanghai. Kino Mir will be sold in January to Moscow based Kino Max for an as yet undisclosed sum. Kino Max is one of the leaders of the new breed of Russian exhibitors that has appeared over the last three years as the Russian economy has improved. The company already has cinemas in the cities of Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Rostov and Vladimir. Kino Mir will be its first Moscow cinema.

Silivanova says she will have plenty to do just looking after Kodak's film sales in Russia. The number of feature films produced in 2001 is expected to be more than 60 - up from the 30 to 40 produced in 2000. There is also a growing print business as cinema goers demand higher quality. "The days when prints for the distribution of foreign films were made on Ukrainian stock are gone. Audiences today expect more from their cinema experience," said Silivanova.