Analysis: What is happening in Russian theaters after the Hollywood boycott?
In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hollywood studios announced the withdrawal of their films from Russian theaters. At the time, this was seen as a blow to the Russian entertainment industry – in 2021, Hollywood fare accounted for 70% of Russian film offerings and eight of the top 10 grossing films were Hollywood products, with Sony Pictures’ SONY “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is the most commercially successful title with over $32 million in ticket sales.
However, if you look at the current cinema programming in the Russian capital of Moscow, something a little strange is happening. There are no US titles being officially released, but reports have surfaced that these works have ended up in Russia via digital piracy. Also offered are older American films that are getting a second wind through unauthorized re-releases.
The Pirate’s Journey: The pirating of American works for Russian audiences dates back to the Soviet era, which involved the smuggling of film reels and later VHS video tapes into the country. Today, Russian movie theater owners are profiting from the counterfeit copies proliferating in the less savory corners of the internet – and all it takes is a stable online connection to download these films to expose them. .
The screenings are reminiscent of Soviet times, when the only way to see most Western films was to access a pirated version. While these films reached Russians in the form of smuggled VHS tapes, today cinemas across the country have an easier and faster method: the Internet. Many websites offer pirated copies of movies that take a few minutes to download.
The New York Times NYT reported that titles such as the Walt Disney Co. SAY Pixar animated feature film “Turning Red”, Warner Bros. Discovery’s WBD “The Batman” and Sony Pictures Releases “Uncharted” found a Russian audience even though their respective studios banned their export to Russia. Exhibit varies by location – some brazenly show the films despite Hollywood’s ban, while others rent out their auditoriums for private screenings advertised on social media.
But internet piracy can’t go that far, and some theaters have resorted to older films to attract audiences. According to the wall street journal, by Martin Scorsese 2013 “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo DiCaprio resonated with audiences in a reissue not authorized by his studio, Paramount Pictures PARA A.
Empty seats in abundance: However, the Hollywood boycott has significantly reduced the exhibition space for Russian films. Variety data provided by Russia Theater Owners Association that ticket sales fell nearly 50% year-on-year in March after the boycott turned off the cinema tap, adding that at least half of Russian cinemas will be doomed to permanent closure throughout the year.
Complicating matters is the lack of films to fill the American void. The domestic film industry has a rich history ranging from by Sergei Eisenstein innovative masterpieces for by Sergei Bondarchuk From the Oscar-winning epic “War and Peace” to the innovative and thought-provoking cinematic art of Andrei Tarkovsky to the award-winning contemporary works of Andrei Konchalovsky and Ilya Khrzhanovskybut its current production is relatively minimal.
The Guardian reported that some theater owners imported Chinese films to occupy screen time while OpIndia.com noted that Latin American films and productions from other Asian countries were appearing in greater quantity. But while the effort to fill the cinematic void in Russia has been valiant, Russian moviegoers are not responding to these substitute efforts.
“We’ll be lucky if we last until the fall without closing,” an unnamed director of a Russian cinema told the Guardian. “People just don’t want to go see ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ for the fifth time.”
Photo: Oleg Shakurov/Pixabay