Berlin: Russia's Timur Bekmambetov Looking for Sales After Box-Office Disappointments

Timur Bekmambetov - H 2015
Courtesy of Bazelevs

His company, Bazelevs, hopes it can compensate for a patchy recent record at home and score foreign sales for its two market films.

Timur Bekmambetov’s Russian company, Bazelevs, is bringing two new titles to the European Film Market in Berlin, betting on international sales even following recent box-office disappointments at home.

Bazelevs' EFM titles are Dmitry Kiselev's space drama Vremya pervykh (Time of the First) and family animation Moy super papa (My Super Dad), directed by Viktor Glukhushin, Stanislav Shakhov and Olga Baulina.

The two movies are likely to attract substantial interest from international buyers, Valeria Dobrolyubov?, head of sales at Mirsand Ltd., an international distribution company that exclusively works with Bazelevs, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"My Super Dad is a family CGI-animated film, spiked with humor and songs," she said. "This is a moving story about relations between parents and their teenaged children that would be understood in any place on earth."

According to Dobrolyubova, strong selling points of Time of the First are high-budget visual effects and elements of a catastrophe movie. "The movie is centered on the first-ever spacewalk, an event of global scale, which is second in importance only to [Yuri] Gagarin's first human space flight," she said.

Meanwhile, Bazelevs' fare has done unevenly in Russia over the last year or so. Indar Dzhendubayev's fantasy On – drakon (He is a Dragon) only grossed $1.7 million, and teenage comedy Vzlomat blogerov (To Hack the Bloggers), directed by Maxim Sveshnikov, took in just $120,000, also generating devastatingly low ratings from viewers on KinoPoisk, the Russian equivalent of IMDb.

That has triggered criticism from state-run film funding body Cinema Fund, which co-financed the movie. it vowed extra scrutiny for future Bazelevs projects applying for funding.

Bekmambetov's most recent Hollywood movie Ben Hur, based on Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and produced by MGM and Paramount on an estimated budget of $100 million, flopped at the U.S. box office last year, grossing just $26.4 million.

Still, the company has seen a good international record for its films. He is a Dragon was recently honored by local industry journal Kinobusiness as Russia's highest-grossing movie abroad in 2016, with $9.1 million.