11.5 billion rubles will be allocated for state support of the film industry in the Russian Federation before the end of the year. We are talking about injections in film production. However, to be able to see them on the big screen, it will also be necessary to expand distribution, which lost most of its income due to the termination of contracts with major foreign studios. In the country as a whole, according to expert estimates, up to 15 percent of movie theaters are no longer working. In Voronezh, about a fifth. What are the cinemas themselves doing and how can we help them?
session for two
Of the fifty cinemas in the capital of the Chernozem region, 10 are not working: eight – in the Star & Mlad network, two – in the Proletariy cinema, work on which has been suspended at least until autumn. There are fears that forever. Another older player, “Spartak”, refused the morning sessions and works from 3:00 p.m.
The film distribution industry was on the verge of survival for two years: due to the pandemic, theaters were periodically closed, the rest of the time they worked with seating restrictions. When they were cancelled, the audience did not return in the same number. And now there are no potentially blockbuster movies on the bill.
– Studios that provided about 75 percent of national distribution, both in terms of viewership and ticket revenue, left. Conventionally, this is Hollywood with the “Bondiana” joining it. So it was in individual cinemas and in networks of any scale. The remaining quarter was given by Russian hits (“Turkish Gambit”, “Movement Up”, “Legend N 17”) and films that were not widely publicized, for example, Anna Melikyan’s paintings, art house, documentaries Said the president of the Spartak cinema Mikhail Nosyrev. – Due to the products of Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, we could live and spend money on image and niche projects: film festivals, broadcasts of performances, of CoolConnections, of Golden Mask, according to our exclusive program. We could afford unprofitable shows, for 10-20 people. And now so many come to any session.
Entrepreneur Yevgeny Khamin, whose group of companies created three Star & Mlad cinemas in Voronezh, estimated the share of Russian production at 20 percent and specified that there was nothing to show today.
– In March, there were two domestic films: “Empire V” and the cartoon “Finnik”, – Khamin explained. – Revenue, if we compare March 2019 and 2022, fell by 65 percent, that is, three times. Healthcare industry – zero. There are corridors, there is no industry. No level is required, neither in quality nor in quantity. It’s hard to believe it will be. America’s movie industry is $11 billion, and ours is only seven percent of that. That’s why we saw what was filmed across the ocean.
Tarkovsky against Hollywood?
Hopes for alternative content did not materialize. European films appeared on the poster, which are comparable to those that left in terms of artistic merit. However, according to Nosyrev’s calculations, they do not bring even 10 percent of the above fees:
– China, South Korea, India, Mexico – you can show anything, only people won’t come. We will see the same 10-20 people. There is no shortage of movies: hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of movies are made around the world every year. But there is a big divide between production and distribution.
The idea of showing timeless classics turned out to be somewhat advantageous: for example, 50 or even 80 spectators attended the Andrei Tarkovsky retrospective in Spartak. This is not enough for the survival of all cinema.
The same can be said for the broadcasts of the theaters, which are very well visited in Voronezh (and sometimes very well). The CoolConnections association offers foreign and Russian productions for rent, in Central Russia they cooperate with it in several cities. In Voronezh, for seven years, they organize their own broadcasts from the popular theaters of Moscow.
Many films are initially shot for broadcast resources – the audience there is an order of magnitude larger
– The cost of the organization during this time has grown 10 times. We rent a lot of equipment, figure out how to record sound, mount … Technically, we do the same thing as the organizing committee of the Golden Mask award, which shows performances of its program in the regions. They only film three shows a year, and we already had 100 live broadcasts. “Autumn Sonata” with Neelova and Babenko gathered more people than three films in the same week. In addition, this appeals to a different audience, an adult, – Nosyrev emphasized.
Three attempts were made to bring the Voronezh project “Theater in the cinema” to the federal level, but… There are colleagues, for example, in Belgorod and Rostov-on-Don, who are ready to join even tomorrow. The problem is setting fixed royalties for theaters, and not sharing with them the income from each theater (which can be small, especially at first and without advertising).
– It’s one thing when the stream shows only one room. And when there are a lot of them, the theaters, as copyright holders, have an appetite. Popular artists, composers – everyone wants to receive royalties for each performance, explained Mikhail Nosyrev. – Comrades we have a concern: what if we don’t charge the box to pay everyone?..
Movie theaters are not used to advertising their programs. This was done by film producers and distributors. In addition, the promotion costs a lot of money, which the alternative content will not recover.
Reach for the masterpieces
The distributors accepted with timid hopes the declarations that the State would invest 11,500 million in cinematographic production until the end of the year. True, at a conditional exchange rate of 110 rubles per dollar, this amount will be comparable to half the budget of some Dunes. The market needs blockbuster movies aimed at 14-25 year olds and released in time for the New Year holidays. There is experience in Russia. There is no time to wait.
– From the allocation of funds to the release of the film should take at least two years. It may turn out that by that time there will be nowhere to show the film, Mikhail Nosyrev warned. – Offline theaters will be re-profiled, new items will go to streaming platforms. They beat us with an overwhelming score. In 2000-2010, movie showings grew 100 percent a year. Since 2015, competition with Internet platforms began. They developed slowly, but when theaters closed due to covid, online won.
Many movies were originally made for streaming resources. The audience there is an order of magnitude larger, advertising on the Web is cheap. The concept of a “cinema window”, the interval between a film’s release on the big screen and its release online, was gradually shortened from 180 days to 30 days and eventually abolished. (In the US, by the way, there is.) If the situation does not change, blockbusters shot with state support will be shown on the Internet. And the movie theaters, in whose equipment huge funds have been invested (including economic ones), will be left without work.
– For 15 years, 1,500 cinemas with 4,150 movie theaters have appeared in Russia (there are more than five thousand in the country. – Approx. “RG”). The owners invested 220 billion rubles in its creation, paid 20 billion in taxes, employed more than 20 thousand people. I spent 800 million and created 21 halls for 3600 seats in Voronezh. The same amount was created in the city during 70 years of socialism. In the 1990s, seven out of 10 movie theaters closed. And today there are nine of them, and there are twice as many places as before, – recalled Evgeny Khamin.
If rent is overwhelmed by a new wave of closures, it will be much more difficult to restore infrastructure again. Any building must be maintained, property tax or rent must be paid to the owner. Most market players will not be able to bear such a burden and will turn movie theaters into offices, restaurants or concert halls. Having invested money in this, the businessman will wait for it to pay off, and not for Russian box office films to come out.
“Now we can pay salaries, interest on loans, property taxes and utilities,” the Spartak president said. – And we will pull this note for the love of art. Nobody cries for Hollywood. When I see a cool domestic series that also makes money, I rejoice as if I filmed it myself. And I even thought about how the series could be shown on the big screen. We will expect new national films if we receive the proper assistance. Negotiations in the regional government are underway, we are being heard. Any form will suit business: a minimum wage payment for each employee, an allowance for a chair in the hall, a social order … And most importantly – you need to understand how long you have to hold out. If before the New Year, 2023, you can safely convert Tarkovsky.
Anatoly Sushko, film blogger:
– According to the statistics of the association of film distributors, in 2021, 525 films were released, 153 of them Russian. Paid for our five. We can release three new items per week. But without state support, film production in the Russian Federation will stop. We viewers were stubbornly educated on American content. We need to change habits. Perhaps it is time to rebuild the film market along China’s lines (but this will require investment). There is a powerful own production and a powerful network of cinemas. Hollywood’s quota is 10 to 15 movies a year. Lots of conditions: Filming must take place partially in China with the participation of at least one local actor in at least a supporting role, censorship. And for all that, only 30 (and not 50) percent of the rental income. The studios are willing to comply with these conditions because the market is huge, for some films the fees are higher than in the US.
Evgeny Khamin, developer:
– Cinema is work, taxes, education, it is the basis of the creative industry, technology and computing… The multiplier of the industry is the highest. Can officials make movies quickly, in large numbers, and with high quality in the traditional way? No. Can a business do it? There is no now. One format remains for the development of everything large and necessary, including the film industry – the creation of state corporations. “Nationalize” the cinemas, turn the theaters into centers of culture. So that there was not only a movie, but also “dominoes”. We give it to you for a penny…
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