By Daniel Loria
Russia had two domestic films breakthrough in 2013, a
pivotal year in which it further solidified itself as one of the hottest
overseas markets in the industry. Stalingrad, a World-War II historical epic distributed in IMAX and 3D, became the
highest-grossing domestic film of all time in Russia. The film benefited from a
3D boom in the country, with growing demand for the format driving
international investment to add more screens with the latest technology. The country's second home-grown hit, Legend No. 17, a
Soviet-set hockey biopic about hockey legend Valeri Kharlamov, also posted an
impressive run domestically. The sports flick skated to a successful
$29.1 million gross after an April premiere.
October was a big month for 3D with the releases of Gravity and Stalingrad only a week apart. Gravity opened in first place with a $7.5 million bow on October 3. The momentum for Alfonso Cuarón's sci-fi film was stalled a week later with Stalingrad's whopping $16.2 million premiere - pitting two 3D sci-fi epics against each other for the rest of the month. Russian audiences favored the domestic film and the historical drama went on a record-breaking hot streak that reignited the blockbuster potential of Russian cinema. Stalingrad has grossed a total of $51.8 million, well ahead of Iron Man 3's $44.1 million blockbuster run. Gravity was able to hold its own with a $21.2 million take, passing Pacific Rim's $20.6 million to become the year's biggest sci-fi release in Russia.
The Russian box office proved to be eclectic in 2013, showcasing a number of hits across several different genres. Animated fare like Despicable Me 2 ($35.1M), The Croods ($28M), and Monsters University ($20.6M) all thrived in the market.
Thor: The Dark World ($35.8M), Fast & Furious 6 ($34.1M), World War Z ($24.7M), and The Wolverine ($22.2M) were the year's stand-outs among action films. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire crossed over as a four quadrant film and was able to gross $23.7 million heading into the final weekend of the year.
Hollywood comedies tend to struggle in non-English speaking markets, but Russia proved to be an exception in 2013 with hits like The Hangover Part III ($17.3M) and We're the Millers ($18M).
Sci-fi also proved popular beyond the aforementioned hits Gravity and Pacific Rim; Oblivion ($19.1M), Elysium ($15.8M), and After Earth ($17M) all enjoyed a bountiful haul from the market.
Frozen took $2 million from previews in Russia last weekend, enough to put it in second place for the weekend. That $2 million is included in this weekend's $11.1 million official debut for Disney's latest, marking a strong start in Russia as 2013 comes to a close. The big debut for Frozen is Disney's highest premiere for an animated feature in the market: 21% ahead of Monsters University, 82% ahead of Wreck-it Ralph, 69% ahead of Brave, and 8% ahead of Tangled.
Russian comedy Odnoklassiniki.Ru (Classmates.Ru) came in a distant second place with a $1.7 million bow. The film played in 970 screens for an $1,818 average. Comedy-slash-fantasy-from-a-beer-commercial Ostrov Vezenija, a film about a man stuck in a deserted island with three attractive women, fell from first to third in its second weekend. The Russian comedy took $1.1 million from its first hold to take its domestic cume to $4.2 million.
Captain Phillips didn't find a friendly home in Russia. The thriller has only grossed $3.2 million in the country after two weekends and looks set to sink in the coming weeks after grossing less than $1 million in its second frame.
12 Years a Slave found a positive traction in its limited release debut. The historical drama from director Steve McQueen opened in 390 screens for a $736k total. The critically acclaimed film outgrossed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire over the weekend, with the young adult sequel winding down its run in Russia with $23.3 million in the bank.
Top Ten Films in Russia:
Ostrov Vezeniya might win the award for best high-concept release of the year. The Russian comedy tells the story of a trio of attractive women trapped in a deserted island with a guy named Roman. The comedy led the box office in its debut weekend, collecting a $2.1 million bow from 726 screens. The Russian film overshadowed the premiere of Captain Phillips in the market. Captain Phillips finished its opening weekend in Russia in third place with a $1.7 million bow, falling behind Ostrov Vezeniya and previews for Disney’s Frozen. Frozen’s previews raked in $2 million from 538 screens.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire added another $1.5 million to its tally over its third weekend. The Hunger Games sequel has now grossed a successful $22.4 million from the market. The Russian franchise Dark World: Balance rounded out the top five films of the weekend with a $1.2 million bow from 1,123 screens.
Top Five Films in Russia: