Box Office in Russia devastated by 'football hysteria'

Russia In Review

After becoming the biggest European market in terms of box-office receipts in 2017, Russia saw a major slump in the number of moviegoers during the summer months.  

In June, movie theatres in Russia earned only 3.4 billion rubles ($54 million), the lowest level in the last seven years, according to official statistics. As a result, the total box office of non-Russian films in the country dropped by an unprecedented 25% to 17.13 billion rubles ($273 million) in the first half of the year. Russian films performed slightly better, primarily thanks to the three big sport dramas specially shot in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup 2018.  

According to Marina Vogue, editor-in-chief of the Russian magazine Bulletin of Film Distributors, these low figures could be explained by the World Cup impacting the cinema industry much more dramatically than initially expected. She explained that people were watching games instead of films, leaving movie theaters half-empty.

Opinion polls also indicate that the phenomenon described as “football hysteria” overtook Russia, with reportedly 68% of citizens in the 145-million country planning to watch the game of the national team in the quarterfinals. The viewing figures for other games were also record-breaking in Russia.

On the other hand, Russian cinema expert Sergey Lavrov raised concerns that a decline in movie theatre admissions in 2018 could be seen even prior to the World Cup, a sign that a major downward trend in the Russian cinema market may be beginning.

Hollywood Actor Wants to Play a Putin Advisor

Hollywood actor Eric Roberts wants to play a role in a possible movie about the current relationship between Ukraine and Russia, he told local news outlet Radio Svoboda during the Odessa Film Festival. In particular, he explained, he would like to play an advisor of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This could be a movie like Three Days of the Condor,” Roberts said. “I would like to play someone Putin needs—for example, someone who arranges meetings for him.”

Roberts reportedly said he admires Putin. “And this is not about how much money he has, but about his path to his current position,” Roberts commented.

Nevertheless, the movie Roberts wants to participate in would not be about the feelings of Putin or the feelings of Ukrainians, the actor claimed. It would be about money, as “with money one can buy power and freedom,” he explained.

Roberts said he is still keen to play villains, because “their world is better, plus they have prettier woman and they die in the end.”

Roberts also attracted the attention of news media in Russia and Ukraine by offering a “Happy birthday” greeting to Ukraine’s film director Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested by Russian authorities and convicted to 20 years in jail by the Russian court on charges of plotting terrorist acts. Ukraine authorities, however, insist the trial was illegal and that Sentsov is a hostagein Russia. Roberts has not clarified whether his gesture was in support of Sentsov or anything else.

Russian Lawmakers Eye Movies as Army Propaganda

Watching Russian films is about to become compulsory in the Russian Army, for the purpose of “ideological influence,” as outlined in a bill recently submitted to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament.

“Culture has a huge educational and intelligential potential, which must be used as much as possible in the process of personality formation,” the lawmakers said in an explanatory note. “In Russia, cinema is one the most important tools of moral and aesthetic education.”

At the moment, there are no special rules about what movies can be viewed in military bases or military institutes in Russia. There are films specially produced by the Defense Ministry that are compulsory viewing in certain branches of the military, but they are mostly of a technical nature and used for training of troops. For entertainment purposes, officers are free to choose all kind of movies to show to the troops, with no restrictions applied.

The new bill, if adopted, would change that, as only certain Russia-made films specially approved by the Defense Ministry would be authorized to be shown to the Army. It is believed that this practice would lead to “patriotic upbringing” of Russian soldiers.

Commenters on Russian social-media websites say this looks very similar to the ideological influences that were widely applied in Soviet times, when Hollywood movies were considered taboo in many areas of social life, including the Army.