'Wolfhound' rollout is biggest ever for Russia


MOSCOW -- Russia's biggest ever cinematic release fantasy epic "Wolfhound" rolls out across the country and neighboring former Soviet territories Thursday on 640 copies.

"This is the widest ever release in Russia not only of a local move but any movie at all," said Armen Dishdishian, vp international sales at Central Partnership.

Dubbed a Slavic 'Lord of the Rings' and three years in the making, "Wolfhound" (Volkodav) will also get a simultaneous 10 copy release in Bulgaria, producer's Moscow-based Central Partnership said.

Directed by Nikolai Lebedev -- who shot Russia's first big post-Soviet war movie "The Star" (Zvezda) in 2002 -- "Wolfhound" cost $10 million to make, including $1 million spent on complex special effects that delayed a previously planned Fall release.

"The film has pre-sold to 30 international territories including Europe, the Middle East, parts of Asia and South America and will open across Eastern Europe -- Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Rumania and Hungarian February with other territories following in the spring," Dishdishian said. He added that 80% of the pre-sale deals stipulated theatrical release for the movie.

Central Partnership plans a further sales campaign at the Berlin Film Festival in February that will be targeted at distributors from other key international territories.

Shot on location in Slovakia and at specially built sets in Moscow, "Wolfhound" tells the story of prehistoric village Galirad whose leader must learn that love and kindness, not revenge, are the only true purposes in life.

Based on a trilogy of stories by Russian author Maria Semyonova, the first of which sold more than a million copies, Central Partnership is hoping the movie will repeat the success of First Channel's megahits "Night Watch" and its sequel "Day Watch" which took $16 million and nearly $35 million respectively in Russia and CIS territories in 2004 and 2006.

The movie premiered to an invitation-only audience last Friday at Moscow's recently refurbished Oktyabr (correct) cinema. The film is being promoted in Russia through television, outdoor and Internet advertising and via mobile telephone downloads giving potential viewers a chance to get to know its characters ahead of the release date.

It will screen on Russian television station NTV -- which bought television rights -- in summer 2007.