The Association of Cinema Owners (AVK) asked for an exemption from liability for showing foreign films without the consent of film companies that stopped working in Russia due to the war in Ukraine. This was reported by Interfax with reference to the head of the Russian representative office of the Comscore corporation Roman Isaev.
According to him, due to the lack of a distribution certificate for foreign films, cinemas cannot show them. Otherwise, they will be punished in accordance with a number of articles of the Criminal and Administrative Codes.
In addition, cinemas cannot transfer remuneration for screening films to those foreign film companies that do not agree to receive transfers to a special O-type ruble account opened in Russia. This implies a decree signed by the President in May on the temporary procedure for payments to "unfriendly" copyright holders. Liability is also provided for the lack of appropriate transfers.
As Isaev noted, if the Russian authorities release cinemas from liability, this will open "a window of opportunity for showing Hollywood content."
At the same time, as Yevgeny Kras, co-founder of the Inoekino company, told The Insider, more than 150 cinemas are already showing Hollywood content without the permission of the copyright holders and do not receive any penalties for this:
“They have not been officially released from liability, but in fact piracy is already happening in these cinemas. Now they want to protect themselves and that there are not 150, but 1500 of them, because after all, not everyone is doing this. Some networks run the risk of doing this openly, and if they receive such permission from the authorities, then everyone will immediately do it en masse. When at the same time they say that Russian cinema needs to be developed and we don’t need Hollywood at all, but at the same time they want to allow Hollywood films to be shown without rights, then I don’t think that Russian cinema will have a place in cinemas.”
Kras added that if the Russian authorities release cinemas from responsibility for broadcasting Hollywood films without the consent of the copyright holders, then the activity of the Inoekino project, which shows the classics of world cinema, will lose its meaning:
“Then everyone will be able to show the old Hollywood movies, which never had rights in Russia. We spent eight years acquiring the rights to the classics, releasing them in cinemas and advertising, and now nobody needs us in this regard, if you can show anything.
Producer and director Alexander Rodnyansky, in a conversation with The Insider, noted that, despite the intention of Russian cinemas to share with rights holders the income from showing their films, we are talking about piracy:
“Hollywood companies deliberately loudly left the Russian market, thereby declaring a protest against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Someone in Russia may not accept this position, but it must be respected. I perfectly understand how hard it is for cinemas today, and I sympathize with passionate private entrepreneurs who have invested in the construction of Russian cinema chains, but today all of them are hostages of the actions of the Russian leadership. And no one else. In the case of piracy, Hollywood studios and other copyright holders will undoubtedly fix them and then file [claims] in Russian and foreign courts, which, if not today, then in the future, will certainly make appropriate decisions. You will inevitably have to answer for theft.”
Producer and film critic Sam Klebanov also told The Insider what the legalization of pirated film screening in the country could threaten Russia with:
“If Russian cinemas switch to pirate screenings, then American studios will try to lobby for the inclusion of cinema equipment in the sanctions lists and will try to involve manufacturers from Europe and Asia in this. Given their impact on the film industry, this is quite realistic. Moreover, all countries are interested in counteracting piracy. Therefore, cinemas will have nowhere to buy and maintain their equipment.”
After the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the American film companies Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony and Paramount announced a temporary suspension of the distribution of their films in Russia. From that moment on, major Western premieres are no longer officially shown in domestic cinemas. In early July, Universal Pictures closed its office in Russia. Earlier, the local division of Disney reported that the work of the office was suspended, but it was not closed. In the summer, the IMAX corporation, which provides the cinematographic system of the same name, also left Russia.
As Vedomosti reported , due to the lack of foreign premieres, the number of operating cinemas in Russia has decreased by more than a third.
However, in May, the Russian authorities began preparing a bill that, through "compulsory licensing", would allow the preservation of films, series, music and other content of companies from "unfriendly countries" that had left Russia.