RealD Looks to Tap Into Box-Office Growth in Kazakhstan

Sacha Baron Cohen in 'Borat'

The image of Cohen’s hairy chest and near-bare buttocks is seared into the minds of moviegoers everywhere, thanks to the lime green “mankini” he wore as a Kazakh journalist on an American adventure in the 2006 smash hit.

Much like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, Kazakhis are keener than ever on the "cultural learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation"

Cinema technology giant RealD will install its 3D technology in seven cinemas in Kazakhstan in its first push into the former Soviet Central Asian country, which has seen strong box-office growth but is likely best known as the home of Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional character Borat.

Kazakhstan is the former Soviet Union’s third major film market after Russia and Ukraine, with Hollywood fare accounting for 45 percent of the still small, but growing total box-office revenue last year, followed by European films (32 percent), Russian (12 percent), Asian (7 percent) and Kazakh (4 percent). In 2013, Hollywood films’ box office was up 14 percent over 2012.

Total 2013 box office in the country rose 13 percent, or 10 percent in U.S. dollar terms, to $63.6 million (9.7 billion tenge), according to Nevafilm Research. That was led by Iron Man 3, the year’s biggest theatrical hit in Kazakhstan, followed by Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6.

“Eastern Europe continues to be a growth market, with 3D total box-office revenue rising from $417 million in 2012 to $532 million in 2013,” said Robert Mayson, managing director of RealD Europe. “Kazakhstan has the potential to contribute to these figures, and RealD is committed to meeting this demand for quality 3D cinema in the region for years ahead.”

Under a deal with big Kazakh cinema circuit Chaplin Cinemas, the first screens are expected to open later this month.

“Chaplin Cinemas is dedicated to providing film fans with the perfect cinema-going experience, and our partnership with RealD ensures that we can achieve this ambition,” said Sabina Kuzenbayeva, director of Chaplin Cinemas. “We’re thrilled that the world’s leading 3D technology will be used across our circuit — particularly in our brand-new Mega Park, where our audiences will reap the considerable benefits of brand-new premium halls.”

Over the last few years, there has been rapid growth of digital screens in Kazakhstan. They now account for 162 out of a total of 213 screens in the country.

In 2013, the Kazakhstan box office amounted to $63.6 million (9.7 billion tenge), a 10 percent increase in dollar terms from 2012. Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6 were last year’s top-grossing movies.

RealD is entering the Kazakh market after several deals with Russian cinema chains, including Cinema Park, Karo Film and Kinomax, as it looks for international growth markets beyond China.