Paramount, Disney expanding in Russia

PPI inks distribution deal; Dis producing first local movie

MOSCOW -- Paramount and Disney took big steps forward in their respective Russia strategies Monday.

Paramount Pictures International has inked an exclusive distribution deal with Central Partnership, Russia's largest independent film producer and distributor. The pact covers the former USSR countries, excluding Ukraine and the Baltic states, and becomes effective Jan. 1.

The agreement also calls for the co-production of motion pictures in Russia for the local market and, in some cases, for international markets. Additionally, PPI will serve as Central Partnership's partner for the international distribution of select titles produced by the company.

Disney, meanwhile, announced its first film for the local market, "The Book of Masters," scheduled to premiere in Russia in fall 2009.

The studio has tapped Nikita Mikhalkov's Three T Studio to produce the film, which began shooting this month outside the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The production will move to the Mosfilm studio stages, according to Disney.

"The Book of Masters" is being directed by Vadim Sokolovsky, best known here for his work in television. The film's budget has not been announced, but a report in business newspaper RBC Daily, tentatively put it at $5 million-$7 million.