'Central' success

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In the 10 years since it was founded, Moscow-based production and distribution shingle Central Partnership has gone from a family-based firm to one of Russia's leading independent filmmakers.

Now in strategic partnership with Prof-Media -- the media wing of Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin's vast Interros industrial holding -- Central Partnership restructured earlier this year, positioning itself to take advantage of the next phase of Russia's filmmaking, distribution and TV production boom.

Founder Ruben Dishdishian recently announced that the company -- which recently declared that 2006 was its most successful year to date, with a 23% increase in business that brought in more than $100 million in revenue -- will now consist of three business units: Central Partnership Group, Central Partnership Sales House and Central Partnership.

Central Partnership Sales House, headed by president Armen Dishdishian (Ruben's cousin), formerly vp international sales, will spearhead sales, advertising and public relations; the Central Partnership unit will concentrate on cinema and TV projects and international acquisitions.

The two divisions will be under the direction of the Central Partnership Group, headed by Ruben Dishdishian, with finances, investment and strategic planning under its control.
"Last year was very successful for all in the cinema and television markets in Russia and former Soviet countries -- the value of which in 2006 was by our estimation not less than $1.5 billion overall," Ruben Dishdishian says.

Armen Dishdishian, who sees small but promising growth potential in exploiting international sales, says that while "a co-production market unfortunately still does not exist in Russia," planning for the emergence of such a market makes sense.

"Russia has no organization for co-productions; films currently being made here are made in local language for the local market, so there is no room for co-productions," Armen Dishdishian says.

While that might change, in the meantime Armen Dishdishian is targeting international sales.

"We are the biggest purchaser of foreign films in Russia and have the biggest library of films and television series in the (Commonwealth of Independent States, including Russia and other former Soviet states) and Eastern Europe," Armen Dishdishian says, adding that 72% of Central Partnership's turnover in 2006 came from sales to television.

Armen Dishdishian's unit will continue to work with Russia's major channels in neighboring Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the biggest regions for Russian movies outside the home market.

He predicts that 2007 will see a threefold increase -- from $1.5 million to $4.5 million -- for international sales, an area of Central Partnership's business that dates back just two years.

With eight full-length feature film projects and eight new TV series on the slate for 2007 -- and, according to mid-March 2007 figures, a domestic boxoffice take of $21 million for its latest project, "Wolfhound" -- Central Partnership looks poised to stay strong.
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