The Last Warrior: Root Of Evil

Source: Disney / Yellow, Black and White

‘The Last Warrior: Root Of Evil’

Russian cinemas have reported a healthy boost in takings over the New Year period, offsetting a more gloomy picture at the global box office.

While the ongoing virus crisis has seen the closure of some cinemas in Russia – and restrictions reduce capacity to between 25-50%, dependant on region – both mainstream and arthouse features have been doing robust business.

Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, starring Mads Mikkelsen, has grossed $1.3m in the territory since its release on November 12 by Capella Film. It makes the award-winning Danish feature and Oscar hopeful the most successful Scandinavian feature released in Russia to date, surpassing the $1.1m taken by Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built in 2018.

Meanwhile, Disney Russia racked up box office takings of $22m during the traditionally lucrative New Year period with its fantasy adventure sequel, The Last Warrior: Root Of Evil. It represents a huge haul against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The lack of big Hollywood products helped The Last Warrior achieve these results,” said Roman Isaev, general manager for Russia and CIS at Comscore.

The only US title released by the majors in Russia over the holiday period was Universal’s The Croods: A New Age. Since opening on December 16, the animated sequel has grossed $10.8m.

Another local title, Central Partnership’s family adventure Silver Skates, has taken $6.1m since its release on December 10.

CTB Film’s animated feature Horse Julius And Big Horse Racing played strongly with younger audiences and has so far taken $4.8m, while Central Partnership’s firefighter action feature Fire catered to older cinemagoers and has recorded $9.43m since opening on December 24.

“Despite the pandemic circumstances and limitations on cinema capacity, [The Last Warrior: Root Of Evil] has set country records, becoming the fastest ever to reach RUB1.5bn ($20m) at the box office,” said Kakhaber Abashidze, managing director for Disney Russia, CIS and CEE.

“By January 13, the sequel had outperformed the original so we consider the result a true success.”

Abashidze added he was “optimistic” for upcoming releases including Soul on January 21 and Raya And The Last Dragon, set to open March 5.

Overall box office down

Comscore’s Isaev said box office was down 37% overall on same period last year but still ranked the overall performance as a highly encouraging result in a year impacted by pandemic. “Under these conditions, it is a great success,” he said,

Isaev upbeat about prospects for the rest of 2021, if major studio tentpoles remain on the release schedule, the Covid-19 vaccine rollout proves effective and cinemas stay open.

Capella Film CEO Nadezda Motina explained how the Moscow-based distributor set about marketing Another Round to Russian cinemagoers. Three days after its opening, in mid-November, the Russian government imposed new restrictions on cinemas, allowing them to operate at just 25% capacity.

Aware that concerned older audiences were staying at home during the pandemic, Capella prepared a special campaign for younger audiences, aged 20 to 35. “We were really selling it as this traditional Russian idea that you need to be drunk to be happy,” said Motina.

Capella also marketed the film aggressively both to arthouse enthusiasts who had followed Vinterberg’s previous films as well as fans of lead actor Mads Mikkelsen.

Motina is hoping for a further boost from this year’s awards season and predicts a second boost in box office for Another Round if it secures a hotly-tipped nomination for the best international feature Oscar.