Berlin buyers get look at 'Watch'

Shorter version gets test

Russian blockbuster "Day Watch" breezes into town today for its international premier at a special Berlinale presentation hosted by distributors Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The fantasy epic where the forces of light are pitched in an eternal battle with the forces of dark with the fate of humankind at stake blew away all Russian boxoffice records when it opened in Moscow just over a year ago and took nearly $35 million in domestic theatrical distribution.

Now producers First Channel and Fox Searchlight are hoping that the shorter international version of "Day Watch" -- known in Russian as "Dnevnoi Dozor" -- will repeat the success of the first movie in the franchise, "Night Watch" (Nochnoi Dozor) that did $16 million at domestic boxoffice in 2004 before going on to take another $16 million internationally.

"Night Watch" shone in German sales last year and the decision for a Berlinale launch for the sequel -- also directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Konstantin Ernst and Anatoli Maksimov -- reflects that.

Fox representatives were being coy Wednesday about the exact schedule for the European roll out for "Day Watch," which is earmarked for autumn, but press reaction to today's screening, immediately followed by a press conference with the director and producers, is likely to be closely watched. Today's 6:45 p.m. press screening will be followed by a Gala Presentation on Friday evening at 8, with star Konstantin Khabensky in attendance. Berlinale diehards get another chance to see the film on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.