Studios rethink as Russian b.o. tanks

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With Russian boxoffice down 18.3% during the first quarter to $232 million, U.S. studios operating here are becoming more cautious about the number of screens on which films are released.

Michael Schlicht, head of Sony Pictures' Russian office, said his studio is not planning to reduce its number of releases because of the economic crisis but added it "will be more careful with the number of screens on which films are released. Costs of film copies are tied to the exchange rate of the dollar."

"In ruble terms, we are collecting the money we predicted," Vadim Smirnov, deputy GM of 20th Century Fox's Russian office, said in the most recent edition of Exhibitors' Bulletin. Smirnov said his company's operating budget for the local market has not been reduced, and the number of screens depends on the release.

"We have never released films on an excessive number of screens," said Roman Isayev, distribution director at Karo, the Russian distributor of Warner Bros. fare. "So this situation hasn't hit us hard, and we are not envisioning a reduced number of screens as a strategy."

He added that ad budgets have increased in ruble terms the past few months.

Despite the uncertain situation, Hollywood majors continue to develop Russian-language projects for the local market. (partialdiff)
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