Russian movie screens to double by '10

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LONDON -- The number of modern cinema screens in Russia is set to double to more than 2,000 within the next three years, according to a report released Tuesday.

A boom in the construction of new cinemas and multiplexes in Russia has seen the number of modern screens increase from just 105 six years ago to more than 1,000 in 2005, British-based industry analysts Dodona Research say in their report titled Cinemagoing Russia.

With the rate of progress predicted to continue steadily in the years ahead, that number should double to more than 2,000 by 2010, says the report -- which defines a modern screen as "one which has multichannel sound, projection equipment and seating."

"A boom in retail development following the quadrupling of Russian wages since 2000 is creating opportunities to locate cinemas in the new shopping and entertainment centers that are springing up," the report adds.

The Dodona study reflects recent research by St. Petersburg's Nevafilm that reported that Russia's total number of modern screens had reached 1,114 as of June, with a predicted total of 1,370 by the year's end.

Development, which initially had been concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, is now beginning to broaden out to large provincial cities around Russia as the country's economic recovery brings new wealth to the regions.

With money to spend, the country's fast-growing middle classes were returning to the cinema -- admissions have grown eight-fold since 2000 and reached 91.8 million in 2005, the Dodona report states.

Admissions are forecast to grow to 170 million annually by 2010, equal to an annual boxoffice gross of $760 million.

The rate of growth in the boxoffice share of local film -- now 30% -- has stoked interested in foreign investment in the market. UIP bought out its local sub-distributor, East-West Creative Associates, in 2004 and, earlier this year, Twentieth Century Fox bought local partner Gemini Film. Moves by other studios should be expected, the report says.

"Assuming Russia's energy and resource-led boom holds up, its film and cinema sectors will certainly be among the fastest-growing, and probably the fastest, in the world over the next five years and beyond," report author Alisdair Ritchie said.
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