Government bans showings of 'Infinity War' on Victoria Day

Russia In Review

The Russian Culture Ministry ruled that only Russian movies should be shown on the country’s movie screens on Victoria Day, May 9. In what was described as “an unspoken arrangement” between the Ministry and Russian cinemas, all screenings of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War were cancelled for one day nationwide.

The move, however, was welcomed neither by viewers nor by cinemas. The cinema industry saw its profits slump by 30% compared to the previous day, even though it was not a holiday. Avengers: Infinity War earned 109 million rubles ($1.5 million) on May 8, more than all the Russian movies together on Victoria Day, when the number of cinemagoers in Russia traditionally is nearly two times higher, even compared to the weekend.

The Russian Culture Ministry sought to push back the Russian premiere of Avengers: Infinity War from May 3 to May 11, but that idea was refused. The Ministry hoped to secure strong box office for the several Russian releases during the May public holidays. However, it became clear that without Avengers: Infinity War, cinemas would not see a significant profit.

The film scored the biggest opening day of all time in Russia, grossing $4.9 million. It was also the first movie to sell more than a million tickets in a single day in Russia.

Russia Becomes Europe’s Biggest Cinema Market

Russia became the largest cinema market in Europe in 2017, with 212.2 million cinema ticket sold domestically, according to data from the European Audiovisual Observatory.

The popularity of big screens in Russia has been steadily growing over the past decade. This growth slowed down during the economic crisis of 2014 to 2016, but in 2017 the number of tickets sold increased by 10% compared to the previous year.

The second-biggest cinema market in Europe is France, where 209.6 million tickets were sold last year, 1.7% less compared to 2016.

Commenting on the data, Russian cinema critics noted that the growth in popularity of big screens is also changing the tastes of the average Russian viewer, making them much more sophisticated than they were a mere ten years ago. One critic in particular, David Shneiderov, opined that in the past the Russian cinema market was “lame,” as the lack of big screens made citizens completely unaware of films.

At one time, Shneiderov said, just showing the logo of Columbia Pictures was enough to attract an audience, as the logo was one of the few things in the cinema industry people in Russia would recognize. But as Russians became more aware about movies, they ceased visiting the bad ones. Shneiderov observed that film distributors in Russia today need to put more effort into gaining the public’s attention for new movies.

Russia Eyes New Movies About Ukrainian War

Russian authorities are encouraged by the international success of several films dealing with the war in the Eastern region of Ukraine.

Phone Duty, directed by Lenar Kamalov, was recently named Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival. Shortly after, Donbass by Sergei Loznitsa received mostly positive feedback from viewers during its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

The two movies are very different in nature. Phone Duty offers the Russian point of view on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, while Donbass, according to critics, will be in equal measure unpleasant for Russian and Ukrainian patriots.

Consequently, the Russian Culture Ministry announced plans to spend money to shoot a new movie about the Ukrainian war. “The Ministry is looking for a good script,” officials said.

It seemed that the Russian government was not really interested in making new movies about the Ukrainian war after the 2017 release of Crimea, which was negatively received by viewers and became a box-office fiasco. There were attempts to distribute Crimea internationally, but they all eventually failed. At that point, the perception was that overseas viewers are not really aware of or interested in the Ukrainian war.

Nevertheless, a new attempt to make a successful film on the topic is on the way, and there is a high chance it will be claimed to be a form of Russian propaganda and an element of the hybrid war by Ukrainian authorities.