Burger King Russia says 'It' promotes McDonald's

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Russia In Review

The Russian arm of Burger King has filed a complaint to the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) against the horror movie It, alleging that the film breaks the country’s advertising law, as camouflaged advertising for another fast-food chain, McDonald’s.

According to the complaint, Burger King raised its concerns because the McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald looks similar to the villain from the movie, evil clown Pennywise, including similar colors and the balloons he carries. Burger King demanded that the movie be banned from Russian cinema screens.

At a press-conference, FAS deputy head Andrey Kashevarov argued that there would be no problem even if the product placement for McDonald’s really takes place, if it is “organically incorporated into the movie.” But he did concede, “We need to go and watch this movie first.”

In the meantime, Russian social-media users suggested that Burger King doesn’t expect to succeed with the complaint, but instead wants to “draw the attention of customers to the similarity of the two clowns, taking advantage of people’s subconscious fear of clowns after watching It.” So the idea is that people will recognize the similarity and be repelled by Ronald McDonald while the movie is still fresh in their minds.

This explanation seems logical, especially since Burger King filed its complaint when the film’s screenings in Russia were coming to an end, after grossing $15 million in three weeks.

Communists Alarmed over Death of Stalin Film

Russia’s MPs from the Communist Party, as expected, have demanded that Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin never be shown in the country, arguing that the film not only insults the country’s Communists, but is part of a broad informational campaign “the Western countries are constantly waging against Russia, trying to spark international dissention.”

Russia’s Culture Ministry has been feeling gloomy in recent months, as the cinema industry has become a battlefield among various groups of Russian society—first between Orthodox Christians and Russian film producers over Alexey Uchitel’s Matilda, and now between Communists and movie distributors about The Death of Stalin.

Iannucci’s satire has even attracted attention in the Kremlin, as Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of Russia’s president, pointed out that “the Culture Ministry is always very responsible about the issuing of distribution licenses.” He added, however, that he doesn’t have a personal opinion about the movie, as he “hasn’t seen it.”

Several Russian MPs have criticized the film, saying that “it can be used only to study the postulates of Russophobic propaganda” and “is a clear attempt to tear Russian society apart” and part of “informational and propaganda war against the country.”

As public discussion about the movie gains momentum, there are also people in Russia who are calling on authorities to not ban the movie. The Culture Ministry should be braced for headaches in the coming weeks, as whatever decision they make, they will not satisfy everyone. 

Culture Minister Plans to ‘Do Milking’ of Spider-Man

Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky said that to find money to support Russia’s cinema industry, he is going to “do milking” of Spider-Man and Shrek.

In Russian slang, “do milking” refers to a protection racket, when criminals pull money out from legally operating companies “for protection.” The phrase was widely used in the 1990s, but not in recent years, as it is believed the situation with rackets in Russia has significantly improved in the past decade.

Medinsky explained that he was justifying the introduction of a higher fee for issuing of distribution licenses for foreign movies in Russia. At the moment, it costs 3,500 rubles (US$55), but the Culture Ministry wants to raise the fee to five million rubles (US$80,000).

According to Medinsky, “nothing bad will happen” with a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean if distributors were to pay five million rubles to the state budget, given the enormous box office of the film in Russia.

Melinsky suggested that “the yield” from the “milking” should be directed to the Russian Cinema Fund, enabling native directors to make more movies.

The statement stirred controversy, with some Russian social-media users suggesting that the Minister of Culture should not use phrases like “do milking”—at least not in public.