Russia's Cinema Park circuit catches Rising Star

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At the beginning of June, ProfMedia group’s Cinema Park, Russia’s largest operator with annual revenues of $120 million and some 12 million patrons, purchased Rising Star Media (RSM), the holding company for competing circuit Kinostar de Lux.

Both companies were founded in 2002 and quickly became leading operators in the emerging market. Under the guidance of chairman Shari Redstone and chief executive officer Paul Heth, RSM developed Kinostar into “Russia’s most profitable theatre chain” when no other foreign investor-operator was willing to take on the risk.

“I fell in love with the country within hours of my first visit to Moscow,” Redstone noted. “I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish there in such a short period of time.” Added Heth, “While it is bittersweet to relinquish our Kinostar de Lux theatres, we are pleased that our audiences will continue to enjoy the ultimate Russian moviegoing experience.”

Kinostar has 75 screens between Moscow and St. Petersburg, including the top-five grossing theatres in the country. Cinema Park has 20 locations and 169 screens in 15 of Russia’s largest cities, including 85 3D and five IMAX 3D auditoriums. Two years ago, in the wake of corporate restructuring at National Amusements, Inc. in the U.S., Redstone and Heth had purchased the assets with investment banker Charlie Ryan of UFG Private Equity of Russia.

South West Screens British Creativity
“Nice idea, or nice little earner?” Bristol, U.K.-based South West Screen asked some 80 attendees at a conference exploring “how to invest intelligently in the creative industries.” At the end of May, leading figures from the finance and investment world met with digital-media entrepreneurs and public-policy planners to discuss new ways of boosting growth and generating jobs in the creative industries. Leading economics commentator Will Hutton (The Work Foundation) noted that the creative industries had “come of age” and were “poised to lead the way in international trade and growth.”

South West Screen is part of the network of regional screen agencies outside London reforming into Creative England, the new body that will support the content industries of film, television, games, and digital and creative services.

3D Film Mart Lands in Liège
At the recent Festival de Cannes, the minister of economy for the Walloon region of Belgium announced 3DFM, the first European co-production market for 3D-stereoscopic films, to take place Dec. 7-8 as part of 3D Stereo MEDIA in Liège. The city just hosted the pre-CineEurope technology seminar that our friends at ICTA put together.

In addition to the market, which will pre-select about 20 projects to be presented to investors in pitching sessions and one-on-one meetings, the third annual 3D Stereo MEDIA event is built upon four sections: professional forum, scientific conference, 3D film festival (awarding “Perrons of Crystal”) and training session in 3D filmmaking. The deadline for submissions to the 3D Film Mart is Sept. 1, 2011. The project was submitted to the European Commission by TWIST (Technologies from Wallonia for Image, Sound and Text) and Germany’s peacefulfish, “the place for financing the content industry."

Kinoton Trains in Krasnodar
“Kinoton’s cinema technology seminars enjoy an excellent reputation internationally,” stated the Germering, Germany-based company (www.kinoton.de). While the training usually takes place at headquarters near Munich, Kinoton offered “digital cinema for technicians and operators: basics, service and maintenance” to 14 Russian projection engineers in Krasnodar. Local multiplex chain Kinomonitor provided one of its state-of-the-art booths and a DCP 30 LX Kinoton projector for hands-on practice.

Figueras Opens London Flagship
The Spanish venue seating experts at Figueras opened their eighth global showroom in Clerkenwell, just north of London. “The United Kingdom—widely regarded as the nerve center of global architecture—offers enormous opportunities and huge potential,” the company noted about having completed over 150 installations there during the past 20 years. “Apart from the U.K. market itself, the country is an attractive location because of its role as an international hub for architecture projects executed worldwide.” Figueras has offices and subsidiaries in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Cologne, Lisbon, Miami and Singapore.

Barco Goes Dutch

With almost 20 exhibitors covering more than 200 screens, “Barco is proud to announce that Dutch cinemas are resolutely choosing Barco’s digital projection technology.” JP Tanghe of Barco nv also notes that the rapid conversion is being made possible thanks to the recent approval of Cinema Digitaal, a nationwide virtual-print-fee program in combination with government funding.

Wolff Cinema Group, Movie Unlimited, CineCity and CineMec have chosen Barco together with Lido, Trianon, Kijkhuis, Jogchems Theaters, Utopolis, Service Bioscoop Zien, Smokey Stadskanaal, Euroscoop, Minerva, Mustsee, Fulcotheater, Luxor Reuver, Hollywoud, Luxor Theater and Wolff group’s partner cinemas Figi, Cinem’Actueel, Cine Service and City. “We had the opportunity to test different projectors and decided that Barco is the best long-term solution for us,” said Jordi Wientjes, Wolff Groep’s chief operating officer.

Chaplin Discovery at Bonham’s Auction
By the time you read this, the only known 35mm nitrate copy of Zepped, featuring a Zeppelin raid over London and Charlie Chaplin edited together, will likely have found a new owner. The legendary auctioneers at Bonham’s offered this 1917 find as one of some 350 lots for sale. When Morace Park bought a battered old tin from an online auction site two years ago, he had no idea that it would turn out to be a possible propaganda film that even Chaplin didn’t know he made.

According to his official biographer, David Robinson, “Chaplin certainly had no hand in the making [of the film].” Instead, “the anonymous maker has put together outtakes from three earlier Chaplin films…with sequences of stop-motion animation, and actual shots of dirigibles. In addition, the film uses a technique of painting or scratching directly on the film to produce the effect of bomb explosions behind Charlie’s figure.” As such, “the techniques are unprecedented,” he asserted, and Zepped “has its own special interest as one of the earliest known compilations of found footage.”

To our readers, it is reassuring that trade screenings can actually play a crucial role in identifying film history. During his research, Park stumbled upon an advertisement in Manchester Film Renter, Bonham’s relates. Since this is the only surviving evidence of any public screening, it is believed that the comic depiction of a Zeppelin attack, which was intended to disperse fears as they were only too common during the war, proved too upsetting for the film to be widely distributed. A footnote in the records show that the movie was given an export license, and the beginning of the film has censorship frames indicating that it was to be sent on a morale-boosting mission to troops in Egypt.

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@filmjournal.com.