'Cybernatural' to Get Wider Russian Release

Courtesy of Fantasia Festival

Viewers from smaller cities and towns are encouraged to make requests on social media in a new practice for the local market.

Timur Bekmambetov’s company Bazelevs released the Hollywood horror thriller Cybernatural in a higher number of Russian cities and towns, introducing a practice of responding to potential viewers' requests on social media.

Bazelevs called on people in smaller cities and towns, where theaters didn't plan to screen the film, produced by Bekmambetov and released in Russian under the title Ubrat iz Druzei (Unfriended), to make requests via social media and contacted theaters directly to organize screenings in places where a sufficient number of requests were filed.

"Prior to the release, we saw dozens of posts on the social media by people who wanted to watch the film in their cities' theaters, but it wasn't scheduled to run," Bekmambetov said in a press release, adding that the company directly contacted theaters to organized screenings that were not previously planned.

People are encouraged to make requests on Bekmambetov's official page on the Russian social network VKontakte, and if at least 150 people in a city or town sign up, Bazelevs organizes screenings.

According to Bekmambetov, the experiment has proven to be successful as the average number of viewers in the four cities added to the release plan under the new practice has been higher than the national average.

Bekmambetov has been criticizing the Russian exhibition system for being inefficient, which often leads to piracy.

"The piracy problem in our country is caused, among other things, by theaters' routine offerings," Bekmambetov said. "Some films can't get through to its audiences, who have to find pirated copies online. We want to make sure that all interested viewers could watch our film legitimately, on a big screen."

The $1 million film was released in the U.S. on April 17 and grossed $31.5 million.