Barely recovered from the pandemic, the Russian film industry is suffering the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine with the withdrawal from theaters of the five Hollywood giants: Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Paramount. The country is trying to turn to Asian productions.
Upon learning of the suspension by Hollywood of the release of his films in Russia, in reaction to the military intervention “unjustified” in the Ukraine, Muscovite Mila Grekova to «I immediately understood for whom the bell tolls.”.
Translator of American films, Mila Grekova has been out of work since the decision of the five Hollywood giants -Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Paramount- to withdraw their productions from the Russian calendar. She still questions the purpose of the sanctions.: “It is the West that I hate today, not (Vladimir) Putin, his target”. “Bollywood may replace Hollywood here, but it’s too late to learn Hindi”blurts out the 56-year-old translator, disappointed, reacting to the idea of replacing American titles with Indian films, mentioned in Russia.
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 coronavirus pandemic. The fate of the industry depends this time on sanctions, while Russia was Europe’s top film market with 145.7 million viewers last year, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory.
Closure of half of the country’s cinemas
Before the suspension decided by Hollywood, the Russian company Mosfilm-Master dubbing ten foreign films a 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 movies, but there were no theaters open. Today we have our cinemas, but not movies”, summarizes. The country could close half of its theaters because they take risks “lose up to 80% of income” after the departure of Hollywood, the Russian Association of theater owners warned in early March.
To adapt and survive, Mosfilm-Master is preparing to hire Korean and Chinese translators, although its director “I doubt Asian movies will work for Russians” due to cultural differences. “It’s not always obvious”believes this 70-year-old specialist, whose “30 years in dubbing”: “Westerners are closer to us”.
Russians will learn to ‘explore themselves’
“The situation is extremely difficult, but not catastrophic”however, he wants to put Olga Ziniakova, 37, president of one of the four major 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…”, she 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.
The Russians, deprived of American blockbusters, “they will explore themselves more deeply”However, I want to believe Olga Ziniakova, who cites the success of the cult Russian film of the 1990s, Golf club (Brother)He went back 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 no longer be the same”she predicted.
World cinema “hostage” to 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 by big politics”create 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”deals with, referring to two international film festivals, which condemned Russia for his offensive in Ukraine. “Deprived of international festivals, Russians will give up auteur cinema that offers a different vision of the world, so precious today”predicts.