"Russian cinema is experiencing a very important moment right now," said Alexander Culicov, chief producer of box office leader "Viy 3D" from motion picture company Marins Group.
"This upswing will be definitive," Culicov said. "Either we reach a new level and become a country to be reckoned with in the international film business, or else …"
From January to March, Russian-produced films "Viy 3D" and "Yolki 3" held first and second place respectively in the domestic box office, with box office revenues of 1.2 billion and 895 million rubles, according to independent research company Movie Research. Domestic films' total revenues reached 4.8 billion rubles ($134 million) and claimed 34 percent of the total box office, a nearly 70 percent increase from the same period in 2013.
The beginning of the year is traditionally a strong period for Russian film thanks to the New Years' holiday, the peak season for Russian movie theaters. Indeed, three of the four Russian films in the quarter's top 10 — "Yolki 3," "Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf 2" and "Love in the Big City 3" — were all released for the holiday.
But there was a dark horse as well: "Viy 3D," the fantasy film adaptation of a classic Gogol short story, which combined the imagery of a mythological past with 3D effects to box office acclaim.
"Viy 3D" was released on Jan. 30, during what is typically the dead season for Russian film. Two other recent hits — 2013's hockey biopic "Legend No. 17" and historical epic "Stalingrad" — were also released at unusual times to no ill effect, said Alexander Luzhin, executive director of Movie Research.
"Russian producers have at last understood that good Russian films can compete with foreign films not only during the New Years' holidays," Luzhin said. A total of 21 Russian films were released in the first quarter this year, compared to 15 in 2013.
The rising level of professionalism among Russian producers, as well as the growth in their numbers, is one of the two main forces behind Russian film's recent success, said Iva Stromilova, a producer at film company Bazelevs, who worked on the New Years' comedy "Yolki 3."
The other is the government's financial support both for the production and, more importantly, the distribution of commercial films, Stromilova added.
"An excellent film may never reach the screen if it is not supported by an advertising campaign, which is often comparable to the production budget," she said.
Fond Kino, the agency responsible for developing cinema for the mass audience, launched a program to support commercial films in 2010 and has to varying degrees participated in most of the box office successes of recent years.
"Given the two to three year film production cycle, we are now seeing the results of that program," Luzhin said.
The fund made a few critical changes to its strategy in 2013. Studios now have to publicly defend their requests and pay back a certain amount of the money they receive to the government.
Of the Fond Kino's 2013 budget of 6.7 billion rubles ($186 million), studios will pay back about 30 percent, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said at a meeting of the council on the development of national cinema in late March.
This state support, alongside Russian producers' increased activity and the industry's recovery from the 2008 to 2009 economic crisis, has led to the current revival, Luzhin said.
Автор: Анджела Дамора