Russian duo launches Art Pictures Media

Distributor to focus on foreign independent movies

MOSCOW -- Russian film director and producer Fyodor Bondarchuk and his partner in the Art Pictures production company, Dmitry Rudovsky, have formed Art Pictures Media, a distributor focusing on foreign independent movies and Art Pictures releases.

"We made a decision to form a distribution company two years ago," Rudovsky told THR. "But only now we've been able to actually launch it."

According to Rudovsky, the initial investment in the company will be between $7 million and $8 million, which roughly corresponds to the cost of releasing five movies on 300 screens each. The new distributor's first release will be Art Pictures' feature "Fobus," scheduled for next January, and the first foreign film will be released in March, Rudovsky said.

So far, the distributor has signed agreements with several European companies, including Sola Media and TF-1, and the company also expects to sign a contract with Italy's Adriana Chiesa Enterprises in the near future.

"We are focusing primarily on European cinema at the moment," Rudovsky said. "But we would be interested in American independent fare as well. All we want is quality that would correspond to that of movies produces by majors."

He added that he doesn't share concerns about the situation with distribution of foreign independent films in Russia, raised by local distributors earlier this year. "A good picture will always find its audience," he said. "And in terms of earnings per screen, we could do better than a Hollywood blockbuster."

But since the global economic downturn hit Russia last year, distributors of foreign independent films have been facing major problems. According to the independent research company Movie Research, films produced by Hollywood majors account for about 60% of Russia's boxoffice, and local movies for just under 30%, leaving distributors specializing in foreign independent fare a mere 10% of the market.

Gevorg Nersisyan, president of the Paradiz group, recently told the Kommersant business daily that minimum guarantees demanded by independent producers remain high, from $100,000 up to as much as $1.5 million per movie, while boxoffice revenues of this kind of films here have been declining.