Local Movies Roar at Russian Box Office

Stalingrad - P - 2013

Local-language fare makes a strong showing in a busy first week of 2014 for Russian cinemas.

Russian cinemas had a record-breaking start to 2014, with the top ten movies at the box office pulling in more than $56 million for the first weekend, up nearly a third on last year.

Preliminary industry figures for the weekend of Jan. 2-5, when millions of Russian families flock to theaters during the first few days of the New Year holidays, show that five of the top ten films were local language, with Yolki-3, produced by Timur Bekmambetov's company Bazelevs, the highest-grossing film at $33 million.

STORY: Russian Film Sector's State Funding to Double by 2017

The figures, 30 percent higher than for January 3-6, 2013, when theaters here grossed $43 million, suggest Russia is headed for another billion-dollar-plus box office year.

The presence of so many top-billing Russian films may also allay the Ministry of Culture's fears that local-language movies are being pushed aside by Hollywood blockbusters.

Family seasonal comedy Yolki -- which translates as "Christmas tree" -- pushed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug into second place for the weekend, although Peter Jackson's film has taken north of $41 million since its release in Russia on Dec. 19.

Other top-ranking local-language films included cartoon fairytale Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf  2, which has taken more than $15.8 million since its late December release, and Love in the City 3, a Russian take on Sex and the City ($9 million).

Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad remains Russia's biggest-ever box office success, grossing more than $66 million since its October 2013 release (and an additional $11.5 million in China).

Last year Russian films accounted for just over 18 percent of the territory's total box office of $1.3 billion.