Russia's Culture Ministry has backed down on plans to bump the local release of Fate of the Furious, but it will intervene to make sure a local competitor has pole position ahead of the eighth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise.
Vremya Pervykh (Time of the First), a historic epic produced by local hitmaker Timur Bekmambetov, is set to bow in Russia April 6, just a week before Fate of the Furious on April 13. The Russian film follows the pioneering Russian cosmonauts Pavel Belyayev and Alexey Leonov, who carried out the first-ever space walks in 1965.
The April 6 release was timed to take advantage of Cosmonauts Day on April 12, a Russian holiday to commemorate the country's outer space achievements. Initially, the Russian Culture Ministry wanted Time of the First to have a full two-week run in Russian theaters with no competition from Hollywood. However, major Russian cinema chains reportedly petitioned the Ministry, threatening to pull the local movie from theaters after the first week unless they have the opportunity to release Fate of the Furious, which is expected to be a box-office hit in the country. Apparently, the two sides have reached a compromise. Fate of the Furious will be released as planned, but theaters will give preferential treatment to Time of the First by giving the Russian film more screens.
"The decision was made to keep April 13 as the official release date of Fate of the Furious," a spokesperson for the Culture Ministry told The Hollywood Reporter. "However, Dmitry Kiselev's Time of the First will have some preferences as it will get the highest number of screenings."
The Ministry won't dictate to theaters exactly how many screenings should be given to Time of the First and indicated that theater owners voluntarily agreed to the measure in exchange for the opportunity to also screen Fate of the Furious.
Incidentally, Time of the First was originally supposed to compete with another local space-themed movie, Salyut-7, but the Culture Ministry moved its release day to the fall.
Furious 7, the most recent entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, grossed $34 million in Russia, making it, in dollar terms, the biggest hit of 2015.