Russia's first realHollywood-style blockbuster NightWatch has broken the local recordfor the biggest grossingbox office hitof all time - taking justover $14.3m asof yesterday, accordingto the press service ofthe First Channelof Russian television.

The previous recordwas held by LordOf The Rings 3 with$14.1m and 3.3madmissions. NightWatch beat Lord OfThe Rings on admissions as well,with 3.8m sinceits release on 8July.

The Russian horrorfilm, directed byTimur Bekmambetov, isstill going strongand looks setto continue todraw crowds formany weeks tocome.

The special effectsladen production isthe first ina trilogy withNight Watch II isalready in postproduction and shootingset to begin soon on NightWatch III.

The $3.5m Night Watchwould have costat between $25-$60mto produce inthe USA accordingto its producers. The filmwas produced bythe First Channeltogether with Tabbak-Bazelev Productions. It wasreleased by Moscowbased Gemini FilmInternational (GFI) on300 prints - a hugenumber for aRussian production.

First Channel chiefKonstantin Ernst said:"Two years agowe decided thatthe Russian marketwas finally readyfor a Russian-madeblockbuster and westarted to makeplans to produceone. We nowhave plans toproduce about fivefilms a yearfor theatrical release.What's important is thatI don't thinkthis is aone-film phenomenon. Ithink what youwill see infuture is thatRussia will besimilar to Japanwhere about 30to 40 percent of thecinema market ismade up ofdomestically produced releases."

Night Watchis based onthe popular fantasybook franchise bySergei Lukyanenko andhas been supportedby a massive television aswell as outdooradvertising campaign. Ithas also benefitedform the FirstChannel's ability tocontain the levelof piracy forits releases. Allover Moscow atkiosks selling piratedDVDs there aresigns that NightWatch is notavailable.

Earlier this year the First Channelteam was alsosuccessful in preventingthe piracy ofits production 72 Metresdirected by VladimirKhotinenko which grossed$2.6m at thebox office beforegoing on tosell 280,000 DVDs.By comparison TheMatrix which was heavilypirated, sold only30,000 DVDs despitebeing a bigtheatrical hit.