'Day Watch' leads record Russian b.o.

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LONDON -- The powerhouse producers behind Russia's distribution boom celebrated another record boxoffice and home entertainment sales year Monday night at the 10th annual industry Blockbuster Awards in Moscow, organized by trade weekly Russian Film Business Today.

Sci-fi thriller "Day Watch" -- which opened 2006 with a stylish Jan. 1 Moscow premiere -- easily broke the ribbon for top-grossing film in Russia and the CIS former Soviet territories with a record boxoffice gross of more than $34 million.

By comparison, last year's winner, Afghan War drama "9th Company," took $25.6 million.

"Day Watch", directed by Kazakhstan-born Timur Bekhmambetov and a sequel to 2004's "Night Watch," also earned its producers, First Channel head Konstantin Ernst and his deputy Anatoli Maksimov, the Blockbuster producers of the year accolade at the awards ceremony held at Moscow's Renaissance Hotel.

The film single-handedly accounted for a sizeable chunk of Russia, CIS and Ukraine total 2006 boxoffice of $455 million, with newly combined distribution company 20th Century Fox CIS/Gemini breaking the $100 million ceiling to gross $106.09 million overall last year, representing a 25.7% market share.

Best foreign film was "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which did $27.51 million of business in Russia and the CIS (excluding Ukraine).

In a new awards category, the film's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, was judged "best producer of the last 10 years" for the $58.6 million his movies have earned in Russia and CIS distribution between 1996 and 2006.

Bruckheimer was one of a number of Hollywood heavy hitters who sent video messages of support that were screened to the 300 guest at the awards, which are Russia's only industry nods based purely on the commercial business a film does.

Alexander Semenov, publisher of Russian Film Business Today and founder of the awards, said in an interview: "Other film awards in Russia rely on critics and academics, but this is the only event that recognises films in boxoffice terms. We celebrate the films that audiences have already voted for with their pocket books."
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