Small Screen Support

Television is playing a key role in the success of the Russian film sector

The Russian film business may be getting all the glory, but in reality there wouldn't be much to look at on the big screen if weren't for the power and popularity of Russian television.

"The television channels are the ones making the movies," says Sergei Lavrov, boxoffice analyst at Russian Film Business Today. This statement rings true if you look at some of the biggest recent hits at the Russian box-office -- the "Night Watch" films and "Irony of Fate: The Sequel" -- both of which were produced by Russia's largest state television channel, Channel One Russia.

"You can't really make a movie without the support of a TV channel," Lavrov adds. "Even if you start shooting without TV support, you have to sell to a TV network later on for sure. Only then are you guaranteed to recoup your money if your film fails at the boxoffice. There is still not as much money floating around theatrical film production as there is in TV. This situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future while there are still not enough screens."

Case in point: The historical epic "1814," which was released theatrically on Dec. 27 and will air on CTC Television in the spring as a miniseries.

"They released it theatrically so that it would get more viewers for the miniseries and would make a little bit of money from theaters and DVD," Lavrov says. "Their main take will be from TV and advertising sales. DVD sales are not likely to be significant -- $500,000 max. CTC will show it several times, make their money back, and then try to sell it to other networks."

Similar to the U.S., where popular comedies or even slight sketches can be transformed into theatrical comedies, the recent movie parody "The Very Best Film" has a TV pedigree. Created by a popular TV comedy troupe, the $6.5 million film took in $16.5 million in its first weekend due to a built-in audience. Additionally, since "Very Best" was produced by entertainment TV channel TNT it benefited from free advertising on all the company's channels.

But Yulia Solovyova, general director of Moscow-based media holding company Prof-Media, says that the symbiotic relationship between Russian film and TV won't last forever.

"There is still more TV production than film production, but the share of TV is not growing in terms of total earnings," Solovyova says. "Accordingly, the growth rate for both is about the same, about 35%-40% per year. This is massive growth compared with Western countries, and we expect the growth rate to be reduced in the future. Next year, it will probably be about the same, but then it will start coming down."