In a groundbreaking deal that highlights the increasing lure of Russia for the US majors, Paramount Pictures International (PPI) is to partner with Russian major, Central Partnership.

The exclusive agreement, which comes into force on January 1st 2009, will see Central Partnership releasing Paramount titles theatrically in the former USSR, excluding Ukraine and the Baltic States. It is also envisaged that the companies will co-produce films in Russia for local and (in some cases) international markets. In addition, PPI will be Central Partnership's partner for distribution of selected motion pictures produced by Central Partnership through its international distribution channels.

Among the first Paramount titles to be released through Central Partnership next year will be Revolutionary Road, reuniting Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, The Watchmen, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Transformers 2.

'Partnership with a leading Hollywood studio is a key milestone in the history of our company,' Ruben Dishdishyan, president and CEO of Central Partnership, commented. 'This agreement will let us substantially expand our portfolio due to the high quality motion pictures supplied by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks and boost our mutual positions in the Russian and CIS film distribution market. This partnership opens new horizons for our companies in the area of co-production and promotion of the Russian cinema in the global market'.

Andrew Cripps, president of PPI, said: 'This is a step change for Paramount in one of the fastest growing and most exciting markets internationally. Central Partnership has positioned itself as one of the most impressive players locally in both distribution and production. We are very proud to be associated with them and look forward to continuing to grow and expand Paramount's presence in Russia.'

Box office in Russia is growing at around 15% per year, making Russia the most rapidly growing market in Eastern Europe and one of the most attractive global markets for US major studios. Moreover, piracy is no longer the problem that it once was.

'We are one of the leading companies in terms of working with internal affairs offices in Russia to fight piracy. We are working closely with the Government to minimise piracy,' Armen Dishdishyan, vice-president International at Central Partnership, commented.

Through its production arm, Central Partnership had made such films as Nikolai Lebedev's $12m (Euros 8.4m) fantasy drama Wolfhound and Karen Oganesyan's The Ghost, which recently screened in Toronto. Local films currently account for around 25% of the Russian theatrical marketplace. 'We will have a good balance between the US studio films and the local films,' Dishdishyan stated.

Central Partnership has access to screens through its sister company, leading exhibitor Cinema Park. Both companies are run through ProfMedia, the largest private investor in the Russian cinema industry.

Last year Central Partnership was ranked among the top three film distributors in Russia. In 2007, the company earned $85m (Euros 60m) at the box-office - 15.1% of total box office in Russia