Russia Box Office: Hollywood Still King, But Local Movies Set to Gain Ground This Year

Courtesy of Central Partnership
'Crew' is one of this year's most anticipated local releases in Russia

Homegrown films are projected to increase their box-office share at the expense of Hollywood and other foreign films.

Russian movies are this year expected to increase their share of the local box office compared to ever-dominant Hollywood releases amid big homegrown releases and a state program that promises upgrades to cinemas in return for screening Russian-made films.

In 2015, Russian movies accounted for only 17.3 percent of the total box office in the country, while Hollywood releases accounted for the lion's share of the rest. This year, Russian films are expected to take a 20 percent share, according to forecasts from Neva Research, a leading Russian analytics company for the movie sector. That would be the best performance by local films since 2008.

Russia cinema's gain, however, is unlikely to mean much pain for Hollywood. Neva predicts Russian films will steal audiences from European titles and smaller independent U.S. movies, not big studio tentpoles. The company couldn't say how the overall increase in ticket sales for Russia movies would impact the projected box office for specific titles, genres or studios.

Among the biggest Russian films bowing this year are Ekipazh (Crew), a disaster film from director Nikolay Lebedev, and Alexei Mizgirev's period drama Duelyant (Duelist). Kevin Spacey/Michael Shannon-starrer Elvis & Nixon and Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Choice go head-to-head with Crew in Russia, while Relativity's Masterminds, Lionsgate's Deepwater Horizon and Universal's sci-fi thriller Spectral bow here on Sept. 29, the same day as Duelist

Xenia Leontyeva, Movie Research's senior analyst, told The Hollywood Reporter one major factor in Russian films' resurgence is a government-backed program to upgrade regional cinemas. Under the program, movie theaters in Russia's far-flung regions are getting cash for technical upgrades, such as digitalization, if they agreed to devote at least half of their screens to local releases.

In 2015, Russia's total box-office gross reached 48 billion rubles ($768 million), and, due to devaluation of the national currency, the ruble, it failed to hit the $1 billion mark for the first time since 2010.