Despite unprecedented government support, the Russian historic space epic Time of the First, produced by Timur Bekmambetov, had a disappointing opening weekend at the country's box office.
According to data from the national movie theater reporting system EAIS, the movie, directed by Dmitry Kiselev, grossed 138.7 million rubles, or $2.4 million, over the Friday-Sunday period, falling far short of predictions of 250 million rubles-280 million rubles ($4.4 million-$4.9 million).
Time of the First still won the weekend, which turned out to be the weakest since October. However, its revenue amounted to less than 30 percent of the total box office for the frame. It was followed by The Boss Baby, which took in $1.7 million in its third week in theaters, with its cume reaching $22.2 million.
Time of the First, which focuses on the first-ever space walk by pioneering cosmonauts Pavel Belyayev and Alexey Leonov in 1965, was expected to benefit from preferential treatment under powers the government gave Russia's culture ministry last year that allow it to prioritize homegrown films over Hollywood fare. The ministry for the first time ever used that power, forcing the country's theaters to allocate at least 35 percent of all screenings during the first and second weeks of the film's theatrical run to it.
If the theaters hadn't agreed, the culture ministry would have postponed the release of Fate of the Furious, the month's main Hollywood blockbuster, scheduled to bow Thursday.
Made on a 400 million ruble ($7 million) budget, the lion's share of which was provided by the Russian government, Time of the First was released around Cosmonauts Day, a holiday traditionally celebrated in Russia on April 12 to commemorate the country's outer space achievements.
Initially, another local space-themed movie, Salyut-7, was planned for the same release date, but the culture ministry moved it to the fall to avoid competition between the two.