The Russian film industry has been turned upside down

(Moscow) Upon learning of Hollywood’s suspension of the distribution of her films in Russia in response to the “unjustified” military intervention in Ukraine, Muscovite Mila Grekova “immediately knew who the death knell was tolling for.”

Posted at 10:49.

Marina LAPENKOVA
French media agency

American film translator M.me Grekova has been out of work since the Big Five – Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Paramount to remove their productions from the Russian calendar.

She still wonders about the purpose of the sanctions: “Today I hate the West, not (Vladimir) Putin, their purpose.”

“Here, Bollywood can replace Hollywood, but it’s too late for me to learn Hindi,” the 56-year-old translator says frustratedly, reacting to the idea of ​​replacing American titles with Indian films mentioned in Russia.

In addition to him, the entire Russian film industry is suffering from the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, when it was barely recovering from the new coronavirus pandemic.

The fate of the film industry this time depends on sanctions, and Russia was the leading European film market last year with 145.7 million admissions, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory.

Asian films?

Prior to the suspension adopted by Hollywood, the Russian company Mosfilm-Master provided dubbing for ten foreign films per month.

“Today we have lost two-thirds of the orders,” laments its director Yevgeny Belin, who receives AFP at the powerful Mosfilm film studio.

“During the pandemic, we had films, but cinemas did not work. Today we have our own theaters, but no films,” he sums up.

The country could close half of its cinemas because they risk “losing up to 80% of their revenue” after Hollywood exits, the Russian Association of Cinema Owners warned in early March.

To adapt and survive, Mosfilmmaster is preparing to hire Korean and Chinese translators, even if its director is “doubtful that Asian films are suitable for Russians” due to cultural differences.

“It’s not always easy,” says this 70-year-old specialist, including “30 in dub.” “Westerns are closer to us.”

“Studying Yourself”

“The situation is extremely difficult, but not catastrophic,” he wants, however, to introduce 37-year-old Olga Zinyakova, president of one of the four largest Russian cinema chains Karo.

“Since the arrival of Hollywood in Russia, 30 years ago, we have experienced many crises: political, economic, pandemics…,” she says.

Since the offensive began in Ukraine on February 24, attendance at its 35 cinemas has fallen by 70%, and the average price of a seat (300 rubles, or about $4.50) has not changed in five years.

The state has already promised to double financial support for film production and minimize the tax burden, as well as the cost of renting premises, rejoices the president of the network, which seems quite small in the huge red October hall, one of the largest in Europe with its 1,500 seats, is now empty.

Russians deprived of blockbusters Americans will “learn themselves more deeply,” but I would like to believe Olga Zinyakova, who refers to the success of the cult Russian film of the 1990s, Brother (Native brother), returned to the poster.

His network is also gearing up to release Asian and Latin American films.

“And when Hollywood returns here, the Russian market and the audience will not be the same,” she predicts.

Hostage of politics

The departure of the Hollywood giants did not surprise 44-year-old Pavel Doreuli, whose Atmosphere studio creates soundscapes for about fifteen films a year.

“World cinema has been hostage to big politics for years,” said this sound engineer, a member since 2020 of the international organization Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).

“Cannes or Berlin no longer reward films, but their position,” he argues, referring to two international film festivals that have denounced Russia for its offensive against Ukraine.

“Deprived of international festivals, Russians will abandon auteur cinema, which offers a different vision of the world, so valuable today,” he predicts.

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