Central Partnership up 46% for '07

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MOSCOW -- Central Partnership, Russia's largest independent distributor and production company, boasted a major jump in revenue Tuesday as it unveiled unaudited results for 2007 along with several new projects at a press conference in Moscow.

Sergei Shestakov, CP's executive director, said that the company's strategy is to become the first Russian major and that its top priority is building its library of more than 1,400 features and 3,000 hours of TV.

Shestakov said that CP's total revenue in 2007 was $156 million, an increase of 46% from 2006's $107 million. EBITDA was $49 million, a 20% increase from $41 million in 2006. TV sales led the way for the company, accounting for 61% of the year's revenue, followed by theatrical distribution (26%), home video (9%) and other revenue (4%).

The share of TV sales was down from 72% in 2006, while the share of theatrical increased from 20% in 2006.

Mark Lolo, general director of Central Partnership Sales House, said that CP was the third-highest-grossing theatrical distributor in 2007 after UPI and Caro Premier. CP managed to ramp up its boxoffice receipts and set some records. Its boxoffice gross in 2007 was $85 million, an increase of 155% over its 2006 figure of $33 million. CP's market share grew from 8% to 15%.

The company's highest-grossing title of the year, and indeed all time, was the Slavic sword-and-sorcery yarn "Wolfhound," which grossed $20.02 million. French offering "Taxi 4" also was released by CP in the territory and became Russia's highest-grossing European film with $12.05 million.

In addition, CP scored the highest-rated Russian TV miniseries in 2007. "Liquidation," about fighting crime in post-WWII Odessa , was viewed by 43.4% of the TV audience (according to Kommersant-Perviy Ratings) when it aired in early December.

For the year, CP released 47 films, 10 of which were CP's own productions. Total boxoffice grosses for 2007 stood at $85.09 million, a 154.5% increase from the year prior. CP's 16 Russian releases accounted for 37% of the total gross for domestic films ($148 million), while the 10 CP productions earned about 25% of domestic boxoffice.

Armen Dishdishyan, the company's vp international, said that CP's foreign sales stood at $3.5 million in 2007, more than twice 2006's $1.5 million.

In 2007, CP completed production on eight films and four TV miniseries. Production chief Aram Movsesyan said that CP has launched production on 14 new projects -- seven films and seven miniseries -- slated for completion this year.

Projects in the pipeline include the $20 million "Taras Bulba," based on a short historical novel about a Ukrainian Cossack by Nikolai Gogol. Now in post-production, it is slated for an early 2009 release. Also planned is the $2.4 million, six-part miniseries "Pelagiya," based on mystery writer Boris Akunin's cycle of books about a nun-detective. "Pelagiya" is expected to shoot this spring.

The company also is planning to shoot its first Armenian-language film, a $200,000 remake of the classic 1950's Armenian film "Song of First Love." Encouraged by the success of TNT's Television's film production "The Very Best Film," a parody of contemporary Russian movies by the TV comedy troupe Comedy Club, CP is now in negotiations with TNT to produce a movie version of another Comedy Club creation, "Nasha Russia."

Founded in 1996, Central Partnership consists of a production company and the independent distributor Central Partnership Sales House and the Internet portal video24.ru. Media holding company Prof-Media owns a controlling stake in CP.

Financial results audited by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, auditor for both CP and its controlling shareholder Prof-Media, are expected in April.
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