Local film misses out as Hollywood muscles in

It seems Russians prefer their movie heroes with an American accent as Hollywood blockbusters drive a boom, but leave domestic productions out in the cold.

These guys are going to see Shrek, or Sex and the City. There are no Russian titles among the top-grossing films of the weekend. Avatar – the most expensive US movie has bust thousands of blocks of tickets, earning half its budget in Russia. Burnt by the Sun, the most expensive Russian blockbuster, earned less than a fifth of production costs. Aleksandr Semyonov, Editor-in-Chief, of Russian film business today, says it is hard for Russian movies to compete with foreign ones on the wide screen.

“Out of 1000 movies filmed in Russia in the past 15 years, only 45 paid off their budgets. For instance, foreign producers know that most cinema goers are under 25. They want spectacle – and the producers meet that need. In Russia its not the same.”

There are other problems including a lack of investment and poor management even when money canm be found, according to producer, Sergey Chliyants.

“For instance, I would like to shoot 2 films a year, if I could come to an organization, and get the money, of course, after proving there's a market. Such organization exists in France, it’s financed through a percentage from every ticket sold. Also TV channels are obliged to invest in movies.”

Television is, probably, the most influential force in Russia after Hollywood. TV channels have shot five of the ten top-grossing films – unlimited marketing resources ensured a strong box-office. However, Sergey Chliyants says television tends only to support established producers, while smaller companies and young movie makers mostly watch from the sidelines.

“If the situation remains as it is now, foreign movies may in several years drive Russian ones out of the market as happened in Italy.”

In 2003 a film “The Return” by an unknown Russian director won several prizes in Europe and the U.S. It was a movie produced by a television company, proof that the small screen has the marketing muscle to promote Russian film. But does it have the will?