the Russian cinema industry victim of sanctions and the departure of Hollywood giants

Since the five Hollywood giants (Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Paramount) decided to suspend the release of their films in Russia in reaction to the Moscow-led war in Ukraine, the film industry has been idle and Russian cinemas no longer have many films to screen: more than half of the country’s theaters could soon close.

Translator of American films, Mrs. Mila Grekova has been out of work since the decision of the five Hollywood giants to withdraw their productions from the Russian calendar. She still questions the purpose of the sanctions: “It’s the West I hate today, not (Vladimir) Putin, their target“.”Here Bollywood may replace Hollywood but it’s too late for me to learn Hindi“, says this 56-year-old woman, disillusioned, reacting to the idea of ​​​​replacing American titles with Indian films, mentioned in Russia.

Beyond his case, it is the entire Russian cinema industry that is suffering the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine, when it was barely recovering from the pandemic. The fate of the industry hangs this time on sanctions, while Russia was the leading European cinema market with 145.7 million admissions last year, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory.

Before the suspension decided by Hollywood, the Russian company Mosfilm-Master carried out the dubbing of ten foreign films per month. “Today we lost two thirds of the orders“, laments its director Evguény Beline. “During the pandemic, we had movies, but no cinemas open. Today, we have our cinemas, but no films“, he summarizes.

The country could close half of its theaters because those risk “losing up to 80% of revenue“after the departure from Hollywood, warned the Russian Association of theater owners in early March.

To adapt and survive, Mosfilm-Master is preparing to hire Korean and Chinese translators, even though its director “doubts that Asian films work for Russians“because of cultural differences.”It’s not always obvious”believes this 70-year-old specialist, whose “30 in dubbing“.”Westerners are closer to us“.

Pavel Doreouli, sound designer, in his Atmosfera studio, on March 28, 2022 in Moscow (Russia).  (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

Since the start of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the number of admissions to its 35 theaters has fallen by 70%, while the average price of a seat (300 rubles, or around three euros) has not not changed for five years. To cope, the State has already promised to double its financial support for film production and to minimize the tax burden as well as the cost of renting rooms.

The departure of the Hollywood giants did not surprise Pavel Doreouli, 44, whose Atmosfera studio creates soundscapes for around fifteen films a year. “For years, world cinema has been hostage to big politics“, believes this sound designer, member since 2020 of the international organization Sound Editors for Cinema (MPSE).

Cannes or Berlin no longer reward films, but their position”he tackles, in reference to two international film festivals, which have condemned Russia for its offensive in Ukraine. “Deprived of international festivals, Russians will renounce auteur cinema which offers a different vision of the world, so precious today“, he predicts.

The situation is extremely difficult, but not catastrophic“, however, wants to put Olga Ziniakova, 37, president of one of the four major Russian cinema networks, Karo, into perspective.Since the arrival of Hollywood in Russia, 30 years ago, we have gone through a lot of crises: political, economic, the pandemic…“, she underlines.

The Russians, deprived of American blockbusters, “explore themselves more deeply“, she wants to believe, citing the success of the Russian cult film of the 1990s, Kid (Brother), returned to the poster. Its network is also preparing to program Asian titles, but also Latin American ones. “When Hollywood returns here, the Russian market and viewers will not be the same“, she predicts.

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