East West on comeback trail

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Russian distributor East West, mothballed three years ago after United International Pictures ended its marketing of Universal, Paramont and DreamWorks titles, is in talks with strategic investors to resurrect its fortunes.

The bid to revitalize the shingle comes on the back of a domestic boxoffice on target to total $500 million this year and forecast to pass the $850 million mark within four years (HR 9/17).

Yevgeny Beginin, who owns the distributor jointly with son Vasily, said Monday that he is in talks with potential investors including Oleg Polyakov, owner of Aegis Media/OKS, one of Russia's top advertising agencies.

Beginin dismissed media speculation that Polyakov had already bought East West but confirmed he was among those with whom the company is talking.

Fueled by a strong consumer market, rising wages and a boom in multiplex construction, the Russian film industry is in full bloom. Russian-made movies are on a roll following a string of local hits, and the 50-60 indigenous releases each year now account for as much as a third of all cinema tickets sold.

And with all Hollywood fare — with the exception of Warner Bros. product — distributed directly by U.S. parent companies, Russian firms are looking for opportunities closer to home.

Beginin confirmed these were all factors in the decision to put a big stake in East West up for sale.

"East West has been dormant for the past three years but now the market in Russia is growing fast and we are looking to sell a major stake," Beginin said.
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