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Russian cinemas resort to pirating Hollywood as domestic films fail

Russian cinemas resort to pirating Hollywood as domestic films fail


Russian cinemas have returned to Ukraine's post-war practice of showing pirate screenings of Hollywood films after a recent attempt to promote domestic films failed.

After major American film studios announced in 2022 that they would pull out of the country in response to the war in Ukraine, many Russian movie theaters illegally screened pirated copies of Hollywood films, as well as short films produced in the country.

Oktyabr Cinema in Moscow
Men walk past movie posters in a corridor at the Oktyabr cinema in Moscow on March 29, 2022. Five Hollywood giants, Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Paramount, have all stopped releasing new films in…


In a bid to support domestic films, the Russian Association of Cinema Owners (RACO) has asked cinema chains to end this practice from April 18 to May 12.

However, despite this initiative, domestic films were not shown and a number of cinemas began showing Hollywood films again, Russian publication RBC reported on Wednesday.

“During the first 12 days of May, with a large number of public holidays and the absence of alternative content, collections [at the box office] are very sad: 1.1 billion rubles [about $12,000]”, Pavel Ponikarovsky, RACO board member and director of Lumen Film, a cinema chain in Russia, told the publication.

In April, the company “posted a loss for the first time in several months,” Ponikarovsky said.

He said that in March, when cinemas were not limited to showing only domestic films, his company earned 4.2 billion rubles. [about $46,000] Russian films. In April, this figure fell to 2.3 billion [about $25,200].

Alexei Voronkov, president of RACO, also said that box office revenues did not meet expectations.

“The May holidays in terms of box office receipts also fell short of expectations: two large four-day weekends should have brought in at least one and a half to two times more than what was collected now,” Voronkov said.

In February, Russia's state-run RT newspaper reported that Western sanctions had had a positive impact on the variety of local content available on domestic streaming services. He said there were now a record number of domestic films and television series being shown there.

RT cited Russian research agency Telecom Daily as saying that while Russian streaming platforms saw a drop in content between January 2022 (31,800 titles) and January 2023 (29,700 titles), by November 2023 the number available titles increased to 31,900, more than were available before the war in Ukraine.

The publication attributes this in part to the growing number of television series produced in the country. He also said that films and television series from South Korea, Turkey and India have replaced American blockbusters.

“We quickly compensated for these losses with original content; we added more Russian films, as well as Turkish and Korean TV series,” Elvira Dmitrievskaya, deputy general director of Russian streaming platform Okko, told RBC.

“A year and a half or two years ago, the market was completely different. All online platforms were looking for exclusive foreign content. Today, [they] “We are focusing on the production of original series and investing in Russian films, because one way or another, four out of five subscribers watch domestic content,” Dmitrievskaya added.

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