Defying dire predictions about the horrors of alcohol-filled New Year holidays, Russians opted for more wholesome fun by flocking to movie theaters like never before, making 2013’s first weekend the biggest grossing in Russia as well as in most of the post-Soviet region.
The total box office results for Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (excluding Ukraine) for January 3 to 6 stood at 1.34 billion rubles ($44.1 million), according to preliminary statistics by industry website Booker’s Bulletin published on Wednesday.
The previous record, set over the 2012 holidays, was 1.15 billion rubles ($37.8 million).
In a show of cultural patriotism, local animated production “The Three Warriors on Distant Shores” was the top earner during the extended holiday season of 2013 (December 27 to January 7), with 756 million rubles ($24.9 million).
The runner-up was Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which grossed 565 million rubles ($18.6 million) since its premiere on Jan. 1.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” came in third, with box office revenues of 557 million rubles ($18.3 million) over the holiday period. However, its total earnings since its Russian premiere on Dec. 20 stood at 1.22 billion rubles – which put it 80 million rubles away from replacing 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” on the country’s list of all-time top 10 earners.
Russia produces dozens of full-length features a year, but most flop at the box office. In 2010, only five of 80 local productions turned a profit.
Prospects for 2013 look brighter, however, with three of four local productions in the weekend’s top 10 already recovering their production budget. This includes “The Three Warriors on Distant Shores,” the fifth installment in the cartoon saga about the Russian “bogatyrs,” or warriors from epic poetry and folk tales whose exploits are being reimagined for the “Shrek” era since 2004.
Russia’s top sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko warned ahead of the New Year festivities that the 10-day holidays enjoyed by the country will be a “decade of horror,” because the idle public would have nothing to do other than watch television and drink itself to cirrhosis.
According to emergency services, 368 people died in fires across the country over the holidays, Rusnovosti.ru reported. About 750 people were cited in 2013 for driving under the influence in Moscow alone, traffic police said.
(Corrects lead to include the post-Soviet region.)