Mars Media of Russia celebrates its 10th anniversary: ​​interview with the founder – deadline


2021 marked 10 years of activity for Mars Media, the leading Russian content company founded by Ruben Dishdishyan, which previously created and led another major player, Central Partnership.

At Mars, Dishdishyan and his team initially focused on TV production, but have since shifted their focus to filmmaking, at a time when most of the industry seems to be going the other way. The pivot to big-screen production, however, paid off with his family film. Palma proving local success and spawning a sequel, while his war photo T-34 was both a local box office hit and also made waves in China. On the horizon, Mars plans include Woland, the $ 15 million drama starring Inglorious Basterds actor August Diehl in a free adaptation of the classic novel by Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and Margarita.

Deadline spoke with Dishdishyan to take a look back at a decade of operating in the Russian market. We also discuss the influx of streamers into the local industry and whether the Russian content business is maturing to the point that we might see a Squid game– hit size will emerge from the country in the years to come.

DEADLINE: Congratulations on your 10th anniversary – what were the highlights?

RUBEN DISHISHYAN: They were very bright years, although they weren’t necessarily always easy. We did a lot of things during this time. To put it in figures, the company has implemented 160 projects; 35 films and 125 television series. They brought us more than 130 prizes at international and Russian festivals. The overall box office of our films in Russia reached 4.1 billion rubles ($ 56 million), and revenues from our overseas projects increased by more than 50%.

One of our films – the war drama T-34 – has been a huge success in China, not the easiest territory for foreign film releases. It lasted a record nine weeks and grossed $ 3.4 million. Next year we’ll be releasing another blockbuster movie in China, Family Romance. Palma.

As for the brightest time, I think it’s the last 18 months: in the face of crisis, foreclosure, uncertainty and market decline, Mars Media not only survived, but got stronger as well. And he celebrated his 10th birthday in force, looking to the future with great optimism.

DEADLINE: You started out mostly as a TV company and more recently moved into the movies as a lot of the industry is going the other way tell us about that decision.

DISHDISHYAN: For us, it was a logical decision. TV series are a less risky and more stable business. From day one, Mars Media was successful in the television market, which allowed us to grow quickly. This allowed us to turn to feature film, especially since my colleagues and I already had extensive experience producing feature films in our old company – the one I founded and ran for many years, Central Partnership.

March Media

The turning point for Mars Media turned out to be the movie T-34, which became not only an audience hit, but also one of the biggest box office hits in the history of Russian film distribution, with a turnover of 2.3 billion rubles ( $ 31 million). Thanks to this success, the company joins the leaders of Russian film production and gains confidence.

Today, the company is growing rapidly, increasing its share in terrestrial television programming, as well as in the film industry and online platforms. We try to work in each segment, each of them has its own market dynamics. And terrestrial television is an important part of Mars Media’s creative endeavors.

DEADLINE: How healthy is the local Russian cinema market?

DISHDISHYAN: Blockages, hybrid distribution, or the immediate release of great movies (which I think is the wrong thing to do) have all had a detrimental effect on the current state of theaters and changed the structure. distribution of films. I think there should be support for theaters.

DEADLINE: You’ve done business with streamers – how well do streamers target the Russian market and how often do you work with them? Apple just bought its first Russian show [Container].

DISHDISHYAN: We have been actively working with Russian platforms for several years. Our company was one of the first to feel the growing interest in VOD services and started to develop in this direction. So by the time the platforms got stronger, we had something like 20 projects in store for them. Our TV series Storm, Whirlwind and Chicks have become pioneers and have been very successful with audiences and festivals.

I welcome the arrival of foreign streaming services in our market as it helps boost competition and overall product quality. We are in close contact with all the major western platforms. Hopefully in 2022 we will announce which movie series will be produced for them.

DEADLINE: How has the Russian market evolved over the past decade?

DISHDISHYAN: The economic model has changed radically with the arrival of streaming services, which have now become the most powerful players in certain areas. Three years ago you couldn’t see it coming. There was a time when filming was very problematic [during the pandemic], which had an effect on the amount of content, but it looks like we’re now seeing a very rapid recovery.

DEADLINE: Do you think Russian content could start to break through more internationally in the coming years, as we’ve seen with countries like South Korea?

DISHDISHYAN: I really want to believe it will. I see a growing interest in Russian projects, which is mainly related to the increase in the quality of our content and the level of our film industry as a whole. It has grown considerably in recent years – this goes for movies as well as TV series. I attribute it to the fact that a new generation of young filmmakers have joined the company.


August Diehl in Woland

In addition, the world is opening up and people all over the world want to watch interesting content. Language is no longer a major issue, as audiences get used to subtitles. We have access to the diversity of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO. We see current trends and benchmarks telling us where we need to go. All of this is already paying off, so there will be more successes to follow. I am happy to witness all of this and believe that our contribution to this process will not be minor.

DEADLINE: How much public funding is available in Russia and to what extent are you using it? Is there any political influence on these funding decisions?

DISHDISHYAN: Mars Media is one of the leading film companies, which gives us the opportunity to receive partial state funding for our projects. During this time, we have never been pressured or censored. It is the potential and the quality of the submitted project that is always critical in making the decision to support it.

DEADLINE: If not, what are the main sources of local funding?

DISHDISHYAN: They vary, including our own resources, private investments, various funds, support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, as well as online platforms. Without forgetting the collaborations with our partners. This year, we signed a five-year strategic agreement to co-produce 10 feature films with Leonard Blavatnik’s Amedia Production. With his company, we have already successfully co-produced a number of TV series and film projects, including The Golden Horde, T-34, and Palma. Currently, work is underway on two other large-scale films, Woland and Mira, whose theatrical releases are scheduled for 2022-2023.

DEADLINE: Tell us more about the projects you have to come.

DISHDISHYAN: We have something like 25 films at different stages of development, that’s a program for three or four years to come. Among them: the film adaptation of Ruslan and Ludmila, one of the most popular works of Alexander Pushkin; Palma 2, the sequel to the family blockbuster; and The Dead Mountaineer Hotel, the film adaptation of the novel by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. We also have around 25 TV and streaming platform projects underway for 2022-2023. Over the next two to three years, we plan to achieve leadership in all segments of the industry and enter international markets with our content.


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