Cinemas in several large Ukrainian cities have started to reopen, but with restrictions in place in light of the ongoing war with Russia. The two largest Ukrainian cinema chains Multiplex and Planeta Kino are operating cinemas in a few key cities, though some cinemas have been destroyed by the war and cannot be reopened. As well, there is only a gradual flow of new film titles. The returns on cinema is part of the gradual normalisation of life in parts of Ukraine where the Russian invasion either failed (Kyiv area) or parts that were subject to remote rocket attacks (Lviv).
The first cinemas re-opened on 14 April in Lviv, Khmelnitsky, Lutsk, Odessa, followed by Dnieper, then Krivoy Rog and Cherkassy. River Mall was the first cinema to open in Kyiv on 21 April. The main condition for a cinema to open was that it should have an underground car park, where patrons could quickly be evacuated to in case of an air raid alarm. Ticket prices on resumption is kept to just UAH 79 (USD $2.61) for Multiplex, while Planeta Kino is charging UAH 70 (USD $2.31), with children paying UAH 50 (USD $1.65) and volunteers admitted free. Morning session will be charity screenings with entry set at just UAH 1.00 (USD $0.03). Both chains will be sending donations to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In Planeta Kino’s River Mall cinema the No Spoiler concessions bar is operating, and RELUX is operating with a simplified menu with a 30% discount. Popcorn, draft drinks and alcohol are sold at full price.
The CEO of Planeta Kino, Natalya Baydan, was quoted as saying that the aim is to re-open cinemas in all cities with a population greater than one million, with one exception: “Kharkiv is questionable — I don’t know when we can open there, the situation is difficult: there are still active battles and shelling not far away.” Baydan remained in Kyiv throughout the latest Russian invasion. She notes that security measures have been in place in Ukrainian cinemas since the first Russian invasion of 2014, with numerous bomb hoax scares, leading to evacuations. Ukrainian intelligence service SBU informed the cinemas that such calls were received from the territory of ORDLO (Russian occupied Ukraine). These hoax calls were said to have become especially frequent towards the end of 2021.
Cinemas have initially offered films that were either playing at the start of the latest invasion on 24 February. These include films such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, “Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage”, “House of Gucci”, “Uncharted” and “Sing 2”, as well as older titles such as “Green Book” and “Gentlemen”. Negotiations were ongoing to make “The Batman” the first major new title to screen.
While patrons have returned to cinemas, the numbers are very low compared to before the latest invasion. “We generate losses. In normal months, our sales were at the level of about UAH 80 million [USD $2.6 million] per month, now it is less than UAH 2 million [USD $66,000],” says Baydan. “I am actively negotiating with copyright holders to provide us with new releases. There is a hope that they will appear in May. Then, I hope, the situation will be resolved.”
Planet Cinema co-owner Dmytro Derkach is quoted as saying that, “We are talking about UAH 10 million [USD $330,000] in monthly losses.” An agreement has been reached for rent to be cancelled for March and April for active cinemas. But Planeta Kino has 600 employees across six cities of Ukraine: Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Sumy and Dnipro. According to RAU.us, “In February, their salaries were paid in full. In March, non-working employees were paid a share of about 30%. In general, those workers who work – [Planeta Kino will] try to pay for the time worked in full.”
Meanwhile Multiplex has pivoted to offering remote services to cinema operators in other countries. These range from design and instalation advice, to IT and technical services. [For details contact: p.svyshchov at multiplex dot ua] Major cinema operators in Europe had IT support located in Ukraine prior to the 24 February invasion, with Ukraine having made a name for itself as a major global IT centre. Multiplex had at the start of the latest hostilities 28 cinemas and 141 cinemas in the largest cities of Ukraine. It is not known how many cinemas in Ukraine, both those of the two large operators, as well as smaller and independent ones, have been destroyed since the latest Russian attack.
Planeta Kino is currently advertising the following films from 5 May in Kyiv: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, “Otherworldy”, “Tame the Dragon” and “Cinderella and the MAgic Stone”. From 12 May it will offer “X”, “Post Mortem”, “Dovebush” and “The Lost City”. From 19 May it plays “Morbius”, followed by “Downton Abbey 2”, “Operation Mincemeat”, “Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore” and “Top Gun Maverick” all on 26 May, in addition to several Ukrainian titles.