While barely recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian film sector is suffering the consequences of the offensive in Ukraine.
When she learned of Hollywood’s suspension of the release of her films in Russia, in reaction to the “unjustified” military intervention in Ukraine, Muscovite Mila Grekova “immediately understood for whom the death sentences sounded.”
A translator of American films, Mila Grekova has been out of work since the decision by the five Hollywood giants – Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and Paramount – to remove their productions from the Russian calendar.
“Here, Bollywood can replace Hollywood, but it’s too late to learn Hindi,” says the disillusioned 56-year-old translator, reacting to the idea of replacing American titles with Indian movies, mentioned in Russia.
First European film market
Beyond his case, it is the entire Russian film industry that is suffering the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, when it was barely recovering from the new coronavirus pandemic.
The fate of the industry depends on sanctions this time, as Russia was Europe’s largest film market with 145.7 million admissions last year, according to European Audiovisual Observatory.
Before the suspension decided by Hollywood, the Russian company Mosfilm-Master dubbing ten foreign films per month.
“Today we have lost two thirds of the orders,” regrets its director Evguény Beline, who receives AFP in a powerful Mosfilm studio. “During the pandemic we had cinemas, but there were no open cinemas, today we have our cinemas, but there are no cinemas,” he sums up.
Lose “up to 80% of income”
The country could close half of its cinemas because they risk “losing up to 80% of revenue” following Hollywood’s exit, the Russian Association of Cinema Owners warned in early March.
To adapt and survive, Mosfilm-Master is preparing to hire Korean and Chinese translators, although its director “doubts that Asian films will work for Russians” due to cultural differences.
“It’s not always easy,” says this 70-year-old specialist, including “30 in dubbing.” “Westerners are closer to us.”
“The situation is extremely difficult, but not catastrophic,” however, he wants to put Olga Ziniakova, 37, president of one of the four big Russian cinema chains, Karo, in perspective.
“Since the arrival of Hollywood in Russia, 30 years ago, we have been through many crises: political, economic, the pandemic…”, he says.
Since the start of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the number of tickets to its 35 rooms has fallen by 70%, while the average price of a seat (300 rubles, about three euros) has not changed for five years. .
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 theaters, rejoices the president of the network, who seems very small in the huge red theater in Oktiabr, a of the largest. in Europe with its 1,500 seats, now empty.
Russians, deprived of American blockbusters, “will explore themselves more deeply,” but Olga Ziniakova, who cites the success of the 1990s Russian cult film, wants to believe, Golf club (Brother), returned to the poster.
His chain is also preparing to program Asian titles, but also Latin American ones. “And when Hollywood comes back here, the Russian market and viewers will not be the same,” she predicts.
hostage of politics
The departure of the Hollywood giants came as no surprise to Pavel Doreouli, 44, whose Atmosfera studio creates soundscapes for about 15 films a year.
“For years, world cinema has been held hostage to big politics,” said this sound designer, a member since 2020 of the international organization Sound Editors for Cinema (MPSE).
“Cannes or Berlin no longer reward films, but their position,” he addresses, referring to two international film festivals, which condemned Russia for its offensive in Ukraine.
“Deprived of international festivals, Russians will give up auteur cinema that offers a different vision of the world, so precious today,” he predicts.