From Invasion of Ukraine, Hollywood’s biggest studios have stopped releasing movies in Russia, and Netflix has discontinued the service there. But recently, a number of companies’ films have begun to appear in Russian cinemas – illegally.
These screenings are reminiscent of Soviet times, when the only way to watch most Western films was to access the pirated version. While these films reached the Russians in the form of pirated VHS tapes, today cinemas in the country have a simpler, faster method: the internet. Many websites offer pirated copies of movies that take minutes to download.
Several theaters in Russia are now openly showing pirated films; Others are being more careful, allowing individuals to rent space to show movies, for free or for a fee. For example, one group rented several screening rooms at a cinema in Yekaterinburg, then used social media to invite people to buy tickets to see them. “Batman.”
Theatergoers can also see “The Batman” in Ivanovo, a city about a five-hour drive from Moscow, at at least one location. In Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region, in the Caucasus, a movie theater is showing “Don’t look up”; and in Chita, a city near the border with Mongolia, parents can take their children to see “Going Red” animated films by Disney and Pixar.
These sneak screenings are the latest attempt by cinemas in Russia to survive after American studios like Disney, Warner Brothers and Paramount left the country in protest. Before the war in Ukraine, films made in the United States were about 70% of the Russian film marketaccording to state media.
But despite efforts to attract viewers, last month Russians barely went to the movies. Theaters saw ticket sales fall by about half in March, compared with the same period last year, according to country sources. Theater Owners Association.
Artem Komolyatov, 31, a video game producer in Moscow, noticed the change when he and his wife went to the movies on Friday a few weeks ago. With all that was going on politically, the two of them wanted to spend a few hours in a comfortable environment with others, Komolyatov said, “watching something together, maybe laughing and crying.”
They chose”Anything Anywhere Anytimea film by the American independent studio A24, which stopped releasing the film in Russia in mid-April.
The sight they saw when they got to the cinema was strange, Komolyatov said. “Apart from us, there were three other people,” he said. “We went at 8pm on a weekend. Usually the theater is full.”
Due to the scarcity of viewers and content, Association of Theater Owners Predicted that at least half of cinemas in Russia will be shut down in the next two months.
Even if that prognosis holds true, history has proven that movies will reach audiences with or without a legal channel. Decades ago, Soviet citizens gathered in empty office spaces, living rooms and cultural centers to view pirated copies of Western classics like “Rocky,” “Terminator.” and “9 ½ weeks” went behind the Iron Curtain.
During the tumultuous years following the breakup of the Soviet Union, piracy continued to be the main entry point for Hollywood films in Russia. Movies recorded on VHS tapes sold at the local market are often clearly recorded on hand-held camcorders in movie theaters. Continue a Soviet traditionmovies are dubbed into Russian with a time lag by the voice actors, usually just one for all the male characters and one for the female.
After the first Western-style cinema opened in 1996 in Moscow, illegal distribution routes began to emerge, according to a study by the Social Science Research Council, a New York-based non-profit organization. In the early 2000s, Russians flocked to cinemas to see globally legally distributed hit movies like “Avatar” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. Russia becomes the ninth largest foreign box office market, according to Film Association.
Russo-Ukrainian War: Main developments
Now, the future of Hollywood movies in Russia is uncertain.
According to Habbilen Halychev, 25, theater director and artist who organized the screening The “premiere” of the movie “The Batman”.
Nodding to illegal Soviet movie screenings, Halychev said he was “trying to create an underground atmosphere,” placing a projector in the center of the room between rows of mismatched seats.
But there are important differences to the Soviet era. First, Western blockbusters are now no longer legally available in Russia because of decisions made by Hollywood studios, not by Kremlin-imposed censorship. And illegal movie screenings pose no danger to viewers and little risk to organizers – so far.
“Two months ago, this was not possible,” Halychev said. “Now you can download movies by torrent, sell tickets, and what happens? There are no consequences. ”