An epic tale of forbidden love, rebellion, sacrifice and honor set in Czarist-era Lithuania has broken virtually all box office records in the Baltic state.
The European Union nation of just 3.5 million people has been a proportionally small market for local film fare in the 20 years since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.
That seemed to change overnight when ‘Tadas Blinda. The Legend Is Born’ raked in €175.000 ($235.000) in its opening weekend.
Released Sept. 22 in just nine locations with a total of 13 screens, the costume drama pulled in an audience of 44.500 — more than half the entire audience of 71.000 that saw the last local hit, ‘Zero2’, which earned a total of $365.000 at current exchange rates after its release in January 2010.
Set in 1861, ‘Tadas Blinda’ tells the story of a humble serf who falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a powerful landowner on the eve of a peasant rebellion.
With a cast of top local talent, a handsome hero, beautiful heroine and a grand historic sweep, it seems be have put the oomph back into a Lithuanian cinema long in the doldrums.
“From the very beginning of this project, the goal was to break the (Lithuanian) box office record of ‘Avatar’ and show that a local film can beat the biggest Hollywood hits,” says producer Zilvinas Naujokas of Vilnius-based Tauras Films.
‘Avatar’ did around half the business that ‘Tadas Blinda’ has done on its opening weekend. In fact, ‘Tadas Blinda’s’ opening box office is bested in Lithuania only by ‘Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’, which took around $300,000 for its first weekend.
“We can now claim that we have not only brought commercial Lithuanian film back to cinemas, but it is also now clear that people here longed to see such a film again. There is no doubt that this film will become the most successful local production in post-Soviet Lithuania,” Naujokas added.
Written as a prequel to a hugely popular 1972 Lithuanian television drama, itself based on a local novel, the film was produced on a $1.35 million budget.
International sales for “Tadas Blinda” which are being handled by Planeta Inform Film Distribution (the former Sovexportfilm), will be launched in November at the American Film Market in Santa Monica.