Indie pics are endangered species on Russian TV

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With television sales faltering, Russian distributors of Hollywood indie titles are finding it increasingly difficult to strike rights deals in the territory.

TV sales have long accounted for the lion's share of revenue local distributors derive from Western independent films, but while the price for an indie feature's distribution rights in the territory has gone steadily up, the prices offered by local stations are plummeting.

The cost of an independent feature's distribution rights rose from about 1% of its budget in 2004 to 5% in 2008, according to Armen Dishdishyan, vp international at Central Partnership, Russia's largest indie film producer and distributor.

But even 5% was considered a fair price for Russian distributors, who were able to turn a profit thanks to TV sales, even if a film's boxoffice performance wasn't impressive.

When the global financial crisis broke out, things changed. In the new year, major TV stations have slashed their rates for film rights by 30%-60%. But the new reduced rates haven't meant an increase in the number of titles being purchased. In fact, Dishdishyan says that stations are actually getting choosier, increasingly taking only high-profile movies. Other distributors of Hollywood independent fare agree.

"In the last six months, dealing with TV channels has become increasingly difficult," said Gevorg Nersisyan, head of the Paradiz group. "Now they only want highly publicized major-studio projects, rejecting many other movies." (partialdiff)
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