Russia lures Hollywood, raising bar for local film

Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:17am EDT
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia may not become the next Hollywood, but Tinseltown is definitely coming to Russia, where audience numbers are growing fast and U.S. blockbusters are gaining greater popularity over domestic films.

Recognizing Russia's potential as a rapidly emerging film market, Hollywood has been flying silver screen stars to Moscow for red carpet events, to the delight of avid Russian fans.

Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz visited Moscow for the Russian premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" in May, while the world premiere of Hollywood 3D blockbuster "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon" attracted 80 Hollywood names including director Michael Bay.

"Moscow is an emerging market, it plays a very important international role," Bay said before the premiere. The film made $22 million in Russia in its first week, 3.4 percent of the global box office take so far.

Cinema-going is booming in Russia two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union put a night out at the movies out of reach for many. Cinemas made a record $1 billion in sales last year on the back of 15.2 percent audience growth.

"We're seeing a solidly positive trend, which shows that people feel comfortable. Russians are adopting the lifestyles and consumer behaviors of the developed nations," said Yevgeny Nadorshin, an economist and former government adviser.

Foreign movies became Russian favorites two years ago, when their Russian returns first outperformed those of domestic films. Last year, U.S. productions made almost five times as much as the Russian ones.

The latest high-profile Russian film "Tired with the Sun-2: The Citadel", heavily promoted at last year's Cannes festival by veteran actor-director Nikita Mikhalkov, flopped, earning less than 4 percent of its $34-million budget in its first two weeks.   Continued...

<p>Actor Johnny Depp is surrounded by fans and security after arriving for the premiere of his new film "Pirates of the Caribbean:On Stranger Tides" at the Oktyabr Cinema in Moscow May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>