With love from India to Russia

Russia and India are linked through history, audience mentality and film industry development trends. Walt Disney International knows what it is doing when it puts plans for Russian and Indian markets side-by-side in its annual report, viewing them as important investment priorities in its aggressive expansion strategy.

Indeed, Disney almost simultaneously launched localisation programmes both in Russia and India. Among other things, they feature local-oriented products: last autumn Disney released its first animated Indian film, Roadside Romeo, and this autumn the Russian audience will see the first Russian-made Disney movie, The Book of Masters.

Similarity between Russian and Indian audiences was spotted by filmmakers in the Soviet era: both favour films focusing on family values and simple human feelings. Passionate Indian movies fascinated Soviet viewers with their unforgettable stories of love, friendship, and jealousy. The first Russian-dubbed Indian film, Dharti Ke Lal ("Children of the Earth"), came out in 1949, receiving the blessing of Josef Stalin himself. Some 300 Indian films made their way to the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. They gathered huge audiences of 20-60 mn. Four Indian productions made it into the USSR's highest grossing films, including Awaara ("The Vagabond"), Bobby, Disco Dancer and Barood.

Today, Indian films are mostly available on DVD or television. The "Domashny" family-oriented channel broadcasts a wide selection of Indian movies. According to its staff, Indian films are hugely popular, especially with women aged 25-60, and are a top item on the channel's agenda. Inspired by success, the channel even introduced Indian Cinema Day. As for the digital market, Indian DVDs account for 1-2 pc of Russia's legal DVD sales. Meanwhile, Russian art house distributors are also showing keen interest in serious Indian pictures, with Cinema without Borders planning to release Manish Jha's Matrubhoomi ("A Nation without Women").

Looking at the overall situation on the Russian film market in 2009, Karo Premiere/Karoprokat is leading in terms of box office, grossing above $122 mn, which is about 21 pc of the entire market. The company focuses on Hollywood's Warner Bros films, of which Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was particularly successful, raising more than $18 mn and propelling Karo's business. The company also finances new Russian films. One of them, Obitaemy Ostrov ("Inhabited Island"), earned a whopping $28 mn, and another, the Lyubov-Morkov 2 ("Love-Carrot 2") comedy, became one of Russia's top films of the year with an impressive $18 mn.

Buena Vista Sony Pictures comes second, reporting box office receipts of $119 mn and a market share of 20.8 pc. Along with distributing Disney and Sony, it also finances local film production. In 2009, Russian viewers spent $14.5 mn for its film Terminator Salvation, and almost $13 mn for Russian comedy The Best Film-2. The third box office leader is Russia's Central Partnership ($115 mn, 20.3 pc), which distributes both its own products and Paramount films. Its success was ensured by Hollywood's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($18 mn) and Russia's Taras Bulba ($17 mn) and Hipsters ($16.8 mn). Finally, in fourth place is 20th century Fox CIS, which treated the Russian audience to Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($44.5 mn) and the Russian adventure comedy Holidays Strict Regime ($17 mn).

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