Russia eyes renewed battle with Hollywood movies

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Russia In Review

Russia’s Ministry of Culture is considering an increase in the price of distribution certificates for Hollywood movies in the country from the current 3,500 rubles (US$59) to five million rubles (US$84,300), according to Anton Malyushev, Russia’s Cinema Fund director.

Last year, out of 585 movies shown in Russian cinemas, 413 were of foreign origin, primarily from Hollywood. The proposed measure would contribute an extra two billion rubles (US$33 million) to the country’s budget, to be spent on production of Russian movies, Malyushev disclosed.

He added that this idea originated with the country’s Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, who at a press conference in mid-January called on Russia to “clean” the cinema industry of Hollywood movies.

Medinsky said that from 2016 the Ministry has the right to not issue a certificate for release of any foreign film in the country when there is a Russian film with a similar theme already scheduled for the requested dates. However, the anti-Hollywood campaign remains weak, as there are still many U.S. movies of poor quality occupying places belonging to domestic films, Medinsky opined.

This campaign is encouraged by the success of Russian movies in 2016, which collected a record box office of 8.6 billion rubles (US$145 million), or 18% of the country’s takings last year. Among other factors, this achievement is associated with the establishment of new cinema screens in small towns, provinces and villages.

According to Medinsky, these new screens last year sold roughly one million tickets and half of that amount was for Russian movies. This indicates that provincial Russians are fond of domestic films much more than citizens of Moscow or other big cities are.

Hit Movie The Viking Stirs Controversy

Russian movie The Viking, released on New Year’s Eve, has set an absolute record among the country’s films, gathering US$ 25 million in box office. Furthermore, in the period of Jan. 5-8, it even made it onto the top 10 global box-office chart, apparently the first movie of Russian origin to achieve this.

However, this seems to be Pyrrhic victory, as with a budget close to US$23 million, The Viking is also said to be the most expensive film ever produced in Russia, Adding the spend on a large-scale marketing campaign, the movie has barely repaid itself.

Nevertheless, the producers have not lost the hope for success, aiming to gather additional money from foreign releases, as nearly 60 countries have purchased or plan to purchase rights to show the film, according to the press service of Russia’s Channel One, which holds the rights to the film.

The Viking tells the story of Prince Vladimir and the period of Christianization of ancient Russia more than ten centuries ago. The movie has been complemented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and most country’s officials, but heavily criticized by most of the country’s movie experts and a significant share of viewers.

One thing for sure, The Viking is one of the most controversial Russian movies of recent years. Several thousand Russians appealed to the government with a petition demanding a halt to showings in cinemas, because they believe the film discredits the image of the Slavs.

Members of the Lithuanian Parliament also described the film as an “element of Russia’s informational war,” referring to a scene in which Prince Vladimir conquers the ancient city of Korsun, which is located in modern Crimea. According to Lithuanian officials, this is an attempt to prove the historic right of Russians for Crimea.

Filmmakers Continue to Bet on Foreign Stars

Over the past several years, Russia’s filmmakers have attracted many foreign actors for participation in domestic projects and it seems that they are not going to give up on this practice. In 2017 there will be at least three such projects, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Antonio Banderas, Jackie Chan and John Malkovich.

Banderas will appear in Russian-Italian film Beyond the Edge, an adventure tale about a swindler who assembles a team of people with paranormal abilities for a casino robbery. But things do not go as planned and the characters find themselves in mortal danger. Banderaswill play one of antagonists.

Schwarzenegger and Chan will team up for the Russian-Chinese film Journey to China: Secret of the Iron Mask, about the incredible adventures of an English traveler in China.

Malkovich will perform a small role in the romantic drama About Love 2. His character will read a lecture with the theme “How to keep the love in the world today.”

In addition, there are rumors that Russian filmmakers are looking to cast Steven Seagal, who recently became a Russian citizen. However, so far no producers have confirmed this.

Russian film director Tigran Keosayan minimized Seagal’s decision to become a Russian citizen, saying that he is not a very good actor, and complaining that Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro are not appealing for citizenship and not starring in the country’s movies.