Hollywood gets its claws into Russia's horror blockbuster

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The Independent Culture

A supernatural thriller featuring an army of evil bloodsuckers has broken box-office records in Russia this summer and now Hollywood wants a piece of the action.

A supernatural thriller featuring an army of evil bloodsuckers has broken box-office records in Russia this summer and now Hollywood wants a piece of the action.

Night Watch, or Nochnoi Dozor, has earned more than £8m at the box office since opening on 8 July, becoming the country's first homegrown blockbuster. It has earned five times more than the previous record-holder, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. With at least two sequels on the way - Day Watch is due for release early next year - the production is drawing comparisons to blockbuster series such as Star Wars.

The success of Night Watch prompted the Hollywood studio Fox Searchlight to buy the rights this week to release the first two films in the United States. The film industry magazine Variety reported that the studio has also obtained the rights to shoot an English version of the third instalment of the series, Twilight Watch.

The film's director, Timur Bekmambetov, said that after a decade of watching American films, Russians were hungry for Hollywood-style movies featuring familiar characters, locations and themes.

"We had the Lord of the Rings, the Matrixes, the Harry Potters and though these films were good, people felt that they were not about them, that they couldn't see themselves in these films," Bekmambetov said. "They wanted something that was special and their own. And now t hat people have tasted it, they want more."

The film, set in contemporary Moscow, centres on a thousand-year battle between vampires and other supernatural beings, some good, some evil. With dazzling special effects, a hip soundtrack and a cast of recognisable modern and Soviet-era stars, Night Watch comes closer to looking and feeling like a Hollywood production than any Russian film before it. Critics have generally supported the movie, saying it lacks depth but is satisfying entertainment.

The film's success comes at a time of growing optimism in the Russian film industry. With the country's economy booming and a growing middle class emerging, more and more Russians can now afford the average 200 roubles (£4) it costs to see a movie.

Ticket sales have been growing at a phenomenal rate, from less than £55m in 2001 to £148m so far this year. This in turn has fed demand for newer and better cinemas. Ten years ago, there were fewer than a dozen modern cinemas throughout Russia. Today, there are more than 600, including a handful of Western-style multiplexes in the main cities.

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