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Russian Internet Giant Yandex Acquires Top Movie Site KinoPoisk

The country's answer to Google buys the local version of IMDb, as the Russian-language online sector increasingly follows Western expansion models.

MOSCOW – Russian internet giant Yandex has bought the country's most popular online movie site, KinoPoisk, for an undisclosed sum.

The move apes the business development model of Google and other popular global search engines on which it is modeled.

KinoPoisk -- known as the "IMDb of Russia," in a reference to the popular English-language online film domain -- attracts around 18 million visitors a month.

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Like Google, Yandex is expanding and plans to merge its technical capabilities with KinoPoisk -- which means "cinema search" -- to create a video recommendation service, tips on where to see films locally, ticket and DVD purchasing options and other services using its vast database and sophisticated algorithms.

The Russian search giant is understood to be in talks with all key Russian providers of premium video-on-demand services to provide a one-stop shop for paid downloads.

The move comes at a time when Russian legislation is finally beginning to tackle Internet movie piracy and consumers are starting to demand better quality downloads than provided by the illegal "torrents" sites.

KinoPoisk, established in 2003 chiefly for a Russia's university student market, rapidly became a must for movie fans and is now one of the most popular sites on the Russian language internet, colloquially known as the "RuNet."

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Like IMDb, KinoPoisk is based on aggregating film reviews, industry news and user-generated comments. The site has more than 100 million movie ratings and new ones are added at a rate of three million a month.

In a statement posted on Tuesday on the site, founders Vitaly Tatsiy, KinoPoisk's CEO, and Dmitry Sukhanov, its chief technical officer, said Yandex was "an industry leader that shares our values and way of thinking."

They promised fans of the site that the move marked "a new stage in the life" of the site and that their "familiar and beloved KinoPoisk" would not disappear, but would "acquire new functions and features we are sure you will enjoy."

The terms of the deal have not been made public, but KinoPoisk is believed to be worth around $50 million, a sum revealed earlier this year when the site's chief backer, AlloCine, was looking to sell its 40 percent stake in the business.

Dmitry Stepanov, a spokesman for Yandex, said in a statement that the Internet was increasingly where consumers turned for tips on which movies and TV shows to watch.

"In order to provide high-quality answers, we need to have a deep knowledge of the subject matter," Stepanov added.

"KinoPoisk has a huge collection of Russian-language information about films, serials, actors and directors, as well as user and expert reviews amassed over many years."

The site might retain its unique identity for a period, but industry observers in Moscow said on Tuesday that it was likely that its operating team, and possibly the site itself, would eventually be integrated into Yandex.