The Moscow Times reports yet more evidence of cultured, erudite, sophisticated Russia under the capable hands of Vladimir Putin:
It Girl Ksenia Sobchak was named the seventh most powerful celebrity in the country Friday, but she said she couldn't care less. Sobchak, the socialite seen as Russia's answer to Paris Hilton, was making her debut on Forbes Russia's third annual celebrity rich list, coming in at No. 49 with an estimated earnings of $1.2 million. But her rating for the magazine's parallel celebrity power list, based not only on income, but also on media coverage and public recognition, propelled her past such dignitaries as Natalya Vodyanova and conductor Valery Gergiev.
Sobchak was among 13 new celebs to join the list of the country's 50 most powerful and highest earning celebrities, along with Olympic figure-skating champion Evgeni Plushenko and film director Fyodor Bondarchuk. "I couldn't care less," Sobchak said by telephone. "These lists are rather relative in all respects," she said in a tired voice. In addition to her regular duties as a television host, Sobchak has recently co-authored a book and dabbled as an acrobat and a clown in the popular "Circus of the Stars" television show. Sobchak declined to discuss her earnings, but Kirill Vishnepolsky, deputy editor of Forbes Russia, said she had told the magazine her earnings were higher than Forbes' estimates.
In its third annual ranking, the magazine found that the country's top athletes, comedians and singers collectively earned more than $168 million over the past year -- still only a drop in the bucket by Western standards. In this year's ranking, seasoned celebrities gave way to younger stars or dropped off the list altogether. "A change of generations is happening in Russian show business," the magazine said.
Dima Bilan, who came second in last year's Eurovision Song Contest, made $4.1 million over the past year, becoming the 12th highest paid celebrity. By comparison, pop diva Alla Pugachyova earned an estimated $3.5 million. Comedy Club, a new crop of stand-up comedians, earned $4.4 million last year, compared with $3.5 million the year before. Yevgeny Petrosyan, a Soviet-era comedian, dropped off this year's list. Comedy Club also came second in the power ranking, a sign that Russians are increasingly discovering a taste for Western-style, stand-up comedy. "That strokes our ego," said Anna Bogomolova, a spokeswoman for Comedy Club, adding that the high ranking would help the company develop into a "serious production studio." She declined to comment on the Forbes' estimates of the studio's earnings.
Russian stars are still cheap. Their collective earnings of $168.4 million does not compare to the incomes of their Western counterparts. American television celebrity Oprah Winfrey alone earned $260 million last year, according to the Forbes list of the top 100 U.S. celebrities.
The country's celebrities may earn less in part because Russians spend more on alcoholic beverages than on music, books and movies, said the magazine. In 2006, Russians paid $4 billion to go to the movies and sports events, listen to music and watch films, but spent four times as much -- $16 billion -- on beer last year, the magazine said.
Russians are willing to shell out money for films, but there are still relatively few modern movie theaters across the country, Vishnepolsky said. "The entertainment culture is still underdeveloped and infrastructure is lacking," he said.
There were just two film directors and one actor -- the usual suspects on the U.S. list -- in this year's Russian ranking. Film director Bondarchuk and actor Gosha Kutsenko are this year's newcomers, who earned $1.9 million and $1.3 million respectively. Celebrity veteran Nikita Mikhalkov clocked in at $1.4 million, compared with $1.5 million the year before. Last year, box office takings stood at $412 million, an 18 percent increase over the year before, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers. The box office market is expected to more than double to $941 million in the next five years, the consultancy said last month. Overall, Russia's entertainment and media industry had the highest growth rate in Europe and reached $19.9 billion last year, PwC said, estimating it to be $21.1 billion in 2007. [LR: Here we go again with the "growth rate"! At least this article gives us a bit of perspective, pointing out that one big-time American celebrity earns more than all of Russia's combined. But it's not making clear how easy it is to have a high growth rate when your base is virtually zero] This year's 10 richest stars, including seven hockey players, a boxer and a basketball player, have all made their fortunes in sports. Maria Sharapova, who earned $23 million, remains Russia's richest star for a third straight year. [LR: In other words, these people didn't earn their money in Russia]
"Our legs are better than our brains," Vishnepolsky said. "We are better at hockey than at singing."
Other newcomers include pop singer Zhanna Friske, football player Yegor Titov, figure skater Ilya Averbukh and pianist Denis Matsuyev. This year's losers include Soviet-era pop singer Valery Leontyev, pop band Umaturman, and tennis players Marat Safin and Yelena Dementieva, who didn't make it to the list. Also among the absentees was Mstislav Rostropovich, who ranked 50th last year with an income of $1.3 million last year. He died in April. To compile this year's list, the magazine analyzed a number of factors, including celebrity estimated earnings, press mentions and Rambler.ru hits from July 2006 to June 2007.