More than a year after Hollywood studios began boycotting Russia after that country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the Russian film industry has declined by at least 40% in 2022, if not more. While trade publications such as Celluloid Junkie have previously covered how some cinema operators in Russia have been screening pirated versions of Hollywood titles, mainstream media outlets are now picking up on the story, explaining how the practice works in more detail.
At a Kinomax in Moscow the scheme works by having moviegoers by tickets for the screening of a Russian film which just happens to be coupled with a “preview” screening of a film such as “Avatar: The Way of Water.” In this manner, the Russian title gets artificially boosted attendance and the cinema operator avoids the government fine associated with screening unlicensed movies. Those fines might disappear however since the Russian Parliament is close to passing a bill that would allow Russian exhibitors to license copyrighted material from companies based in “unfriendly countries” even if a copyright holder refuses to do so. Essentially this legitimizes piracy in an attempt to force content owners back into the country.
Foreign titles, many coming from Hollywood, accounted for between 75-80% of Russia’s RUB 40.7 billion rubles (USD $505.9 million) box office in 2021. Both of those figures dropped in 2022 with foreign films accounting for 48% of the box office in Russia and the market itself falling by 42% overall. Nevafilm Research reports that top cinema chains lost billions of rubles last year, including the country’s largest operator Cinema Park declining by 43% for a loss of RUB 1.8 billion (USD $22.4 million), Karo Film off by 42% giving up RUB 1.3 billion (USD $16.2 million) and Kinomax suffering a 47% dip or a RUB 2 billion (USD $25 million) loss.