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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Potanin to Start Making Movies

Prof-Media, the media subsidiary of metal magnate Vladimir Potanin's Interros holding, has acquired a controlling stake in Central Partnership, the country's largest independent film production and distribution company, the companies said Tuesday.

The details of the deal, which was sealed last week, were not disclosed. But with the deal, Prof-Media has become the country's largest private investor in film, the company's general director Rafael Akopov said in a statement.

The acquisition comes on the back of a booming film business. Box office receipts in Russia and Ukraine grew from $65.1 million in 2001 to $268 million in 2004 and are set to reach as much as $400 million this year, according to Kinobiznes Segodnya, a trade publication.

Prof-Media, which controls print publications and radio stations, also owns the Cinema Park chain of movie theaters. Central Partnership has made a name for itself with such local hits as the Russian action film "Boi s Tenyu," or "Shadow Boxing," and the distribution of foreign titles like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Passion of the Christ." It also holds the rights to 3,200 hours of television series content.

Last year the production and distribution company reported $60 million in turnover. Prof-Media's turnover for the year topped $140 million.

The film deal comes, as Russia's entertainment industry, dubbed "the fastest-growing in Europe" by a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, continues to boom. Consumer spending on movie tickets, videos and DVDs grew 18.2 percent over the previous year to reach $565 million in 2004, according to the consultancy.

The latest Russian blockbuster, the Afghan War epic "9 Rota," or "Company 9," earned $9 million in its first six days, shattering opening-week box office records for both domestic and foreign films in Russia.

"The quality of Russian film is improving and companies are spending more on advertising them," said Alexander Semyonov, editor of Kinobiznes.

Earlier this year, the International Finance Corp., the lending arm of the World Bank, extended a $20 million loan to expand Prof-Media's Cinema Park chain beyond the two Moscow theaters. Another 17 cinemas are set to spring up in St. Petersburg and other regional cities by 2007.

"With Prof-Media, we have found strategic partners in each another. Our views on future development coincide," Ruben Dishdishyan, Central Partnership's general director, said in a statement.

"There are 38 new films, meant for the big screen, and 28 television series already in the works for 2006 and 2007," Prof-Media's Vorontsov said, adding that Central Partnership also plans to increase its distribution channels in Eastern Europe.

According to the agreement, Dishdishyan will stay on as Central Partnership's manager, Prof-Media said.