The invasion of Ukraine caused a number of international film festivals to immediately refuse Russian films made with state support (the screenings in Stockholm and Glasgow were the first to announce this). The largest suppliers of commercial films also left the Russian market: four of the five leading Hollywood companies - Disney, Sony, Universal and Warner - regardless of the upcoming losses, decided to stop releasing their films on the screens of the aggressor country. A little later, the fifth major, Paramount, announced the same.
Following them, video services Amazon Prime Video and Netflix left Russia - the latter refused to continue production of planned Russian projects. Among them are a serial adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel "Anna Karenina", as well as the series "ZATO", "Nothing Special" and a film with Alexander Petrov.
As a result of these actions, Russian cinemas, which collected 40 billion rubles in 2021 and expected to return to the pre-Covid level (50-55 billion) in 2022, already in March felt a sharp decrease in income. To understand the scale of the disaster, it is enough to take into account that Hollywood blockbusters provided about 80% of all revenue. Analysts said that this year the fees will reach 20 billion at best, of which cinemas will get 10. It is expected that the total loss of cinemas by the end of the year will be more than 11.1 billion rubles. This seems to be true, as in March, fees fell by 44%, and the number of viewers - by 49% compared to April 2021: 5.06 million viewers against 10.65 million; in April - more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021, and when compared with 2019, the drop was 70%. Accordingly, rental reports began to resemble the military model of 1941, when the Soviet army left cities one after another - cinemas began to fail in the same sequence. Due to falling profits and the inability to ensure full-fledged work by July, their owners closed a third of cinema halls and decided not to raise ticket prices and prices in cinema bars.
Hollywood blockbusters provided about 80% of all revenue
Naturally, measures to combat the new epidemic were immediately announced: to re-release old Russian and Soviet films, and to increase their attractiveness, arrange premieres with discussions led by film critics connected with cinemas and cheered up in the hope of earning extra money. However, reality quickly dispelled high hopes. "Brother" and "Brother-2" managed to collect about 60 million rubles on 900 screens, "ACCA" brought 1.5 million to the box office on the first weekend, but this is a trifle, if we recall the estimated 2-3 billion results of Hollywood colossus and close to him collections of rare domestic giants like Kholop and Upward Movement.
As a second measure, the deputy head of the Duma Committee on Culture, Elena Drapeko, proposed replacing Hollywood blockbusters that had dropped out of the game with Chinese and other Asian ones. It turns out that she was in China and found that the costume historical film excursions there "are very understandable in style, in mood and will be accessible to our viewers."
According to Drapeko, Chinese costume historical film excursions “are understandable and accessible to our viewers”
The idea of replacing Hollywood, like the war against Ukraine, was supported by film critic Mikhail Trofimenkov. He told urbi et orbi that “almost the main trouble” of Russian distribution is “the monopolization of the market by a number of groups affiliated with Hollywood”, and recalled the Soviet era, when “80% of the films that were screened were domestic” and “satisfied literally all strata of society ", and "the leaders of Goskino were great producers." Unlike Drapeko, Trofimenkov found that "it is unlikely that it <Chinese cinema> can fully fill this pause," because it "reflects a different psychology." And even Iranian cinema, which is close to it in psychology, “can hardly become a full-fledged replacement” for the American one. But Indian Bollywood may replace American Hollywood. In a word, the film reviewer concluded, there was no happiness, but misfortune helped. That is, inadvertently recognized the departure of Hollywood misfortune.
Another connoisseur of cinema, the author of tabloid film fiction Fyodor Razzakov, did not see any misfortune in this, but, on the contrary, declared that "today's American cinema is unprincipled, secondary, it has no pulse of today", while "Asian cinema is much more interesting and modern." For Russia, he believes, “it will be a boon to turn towards this kind of cinema. And to their ideology too.”
The neurosurgeon Tasin Nazim, who founded the film company Indian Films in Russia, is also optimistic. It is likely that he will be able to make money on the production and distribution of individual Indian films, but this does not speak of the great possibilities of Indian cinema as a whole. References to the fact that it was a huge success in the USSR are demagogy or stupidity. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, Hollywood came to Russia, and it immediately became clear that its popularity was much higher than the popularity of Bollywood due to the initial mood for international success and greater ties of Russian culture with American than with Indian.
References to the fact that Indian cinema was a huge success in the USSR - demagogy or stupidity
A fundamentally different, so to speak, revolutionary-criminal approach to the problem of filling domestic cinema halls was announced by the director of the regional network "Soft Cinema" Alexander Odolsky. He expressed the original idea that “only the draft federal law on licensing will help fight”:
Its meaning is that a certain state enterprise is being created, which forcibly delivers the product to the Russian market, receives a distribution certificate from the Ministry of Culture, so that these films correspond to the high moral qualities of our Russian culture and do not contain propaganda and scenes that discredit Russia, duplicates and releases in rental.
In other words, Mr. Odolsky insists that the only way out of the hole is to transfer piracy from the private to the state level. By the way, a start has been made: back in the spring, cinema networks stopped paying Hollywood studios for the rental of films, the rights to broadcast which were bought earlier.
And finally, the third Manilov idea is to take advantage of the departure of Hollywood hits in order to launch a conveyor exit of their own, allowing them to plug the gaping holes left by the departed. However, talks about this have been going on for many years, and things are not exactly there, but not far off the mark. The Russian film industry is still unprofitable and, like cinemas today, needs large government injections. At the same time, it became much more difficult to make them - after all, according to experts, about a billion dollars a day go to war. But the main obstacle is not in money, but in the fact that the state requires that the cinema dance under its control, corresponding to high moral qualities. And, alas, they do not always correspond to those required for mass success, as they limit artistic freedom. And even more so - in the presence of vigilant censorship, which has been tightened many times since the beginning of the fighting in Ukraine. In short, wherever you throw, everywhere you know what.