Sony to Release 'Stalingrad' in Russia

The nation's first 3D IMAX epic tells a behind-the-lines love story set during the siege of the city.

Sony Pictures Releasing International will release Fedor Bondarchuk's World War II epic Stalingrad, the first Russian-made feature made in IMAX 3D, in Russia, the distributor said Tuesday. It will present a teaser trailer for the film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The 1942-43 siege of Stalingrad resulted in the deaths of almost 2 million and looms as large in Russian memory as D-Day and Pearl Harbor do in the U.S. "The film, Russia's first (probably the world's first) 3D retelling of the historic clash of titans on the banks of the Volga, has been made with an attention to detail unparalleled in recent WWII movies," Moscow film journalist Nick Holdsworth tells The Hollywood Reporter. "A simple story of a love triangle is employed to tell the story of battle in human terms. Two men, one woman. A German officer, Russian soldier and a Russian woman. Love across the lines."

"To shoot the movie the producers used the river Volga -- not in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), but on its upper reaches near St Petersburg," Holdsworth adds. "They built an entire backlot there. Stalingrad can only bear comparison to Nikita Mikhalkov's two updates on Burnt by the Sun, which although panned by critics and war veterans as too sentimental, did seek to achieve historical verisimilitude."

"We’re thrilled to be the first Russian film ever to be presented at CinemaCon," said A.R. Films head Alexander Rodnyansky, one of the producers of the film. IMAX Entertainment chairman and president Greg Foster called the $30 million epic "a ‘must see’ for moviegoers and a milestone for both IMAX and Russian cinema.”

Bondarchuk's first film, the Afghan war drama The 9th Company, was the most profitable Russian movie of 2005 and won seven Golden Eagle awards. The director also starred in Spy, reviewed in the debut issue of The Hollywood Reporter: Russian Edition, whose March 2012 launch party he attended at Pashkov House overlooking the Kremlin. (THR: Russian Edition is co-published by Mikhalkov.)

Stalingrad is produced by Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov for Non-Stop Production and Dmitry Rudovsky for Art Pictures. "Our financial expectations are $30 million to $35 million at the box office of Russia and CIS," Rudovsky told THR in 2011, "and another $30 million to $35 million in the rest of the world.”

Stars include German actor August Diehl, who beat his Inglourious Basterds co-star Til Schweiger for the part. The composer is David Lynch favorite Angelo Badalamenti and screenwriters are Iliya Tilkin and Sergey Snezhkin.

Bondarchuk has said he intends to screen Stalingrad only at IMAX theaters for the first two weeks, which would thwart pirating and boost box office grosses. Its release date will be announced soon, following recent celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the battle.

"Stalingrad has all chances of becoming one of [Russia’s] top-grossing movies ever,” Rudovsky said.