STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. More than a third of Russian movie theaters were forced to temporarily close in June as visitor numbers dwindled amid the disappearance of Hollywood blockbusters, the Kommersant business daily reported Thursday.
Russia’s film industry was thrown into turmoil after the five major Hollywood studios — Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony Pictures and Paramount — halted new releases in Russia in March following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Data from the Russian Association of Theater Owners showed that the number of cinemas holding at least one screening dropped from 5,700 on Jan. 5 to 3,600 on June 6, Kommersant reported.
The figures mark a 36% decline in the number of open movie theaters during the workweek.
Weekend data showed a similar trend, with a 21% drop in the number of cinemas open between June 4-5, compared with similar dates in January.
Revenue has also fallen, with cinemas making just 681.4 million rubles ($12.8 million) during the week of May 30-June 5, a 63% drop from average weekly earnings in 2021.
Cinema attendance in the same week was also down by 57% when compared to 2021 figures, totaling 1.2 million people.
Industry experts predict that Russian cinema attendance will fall even further this summer due to the absence of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, despite no shortage in domestic releases.
Russia’s film industry employs 55,000 people, including approximately 20,000 in movie production.
Meanwhile, IMAX has banned Russian cinemas from screening Russian movies within Russia after leaving the country over its invasion of Ukraine, the head of a major cinema chain said Tuesday.
IMAX Corporation, a Canadian company that provides proprietary high-resolution technology for a large-format movie experience, left Russia on June 1 after 19 years on the market, according to the RBC news website. It is among hundreds of foreign businesses to have exited Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Alexei Vasyanin, head of Russia’s largest network Cinema Park and Formula Kino, told RBC that all IMAX employees had been fired and top executives had left Russia for London.
He noted that Russian cinemas require explicit permission from IMAX to screen movies in a high-resolution format despite the technical capabilities to do so.
“Unfortunately we can’t even screen Russian films in that format right now… because there’s a direct ban by the company on using the format,” Vasyanin said.
Vasyanin warned that Russian chains could sue IMAX if does not return to the market, with 54 cinemas around Russia that use its technology, by the end of 2022.
“First of all, we’ll file lawsuits. Secondly, we’ll use this equipment to screen movies in a different format,” the executive told RBC.
“We have a very strict contract with them that regulates their work here. If they keep ignoring that contract by the end of the year, we’ll go to trial,” Vasyanin said (Moscow Times).