December 2, 2022

In Echo of Soviet Era, Russia’s Movie Theaters Turn to Pirate Screenings

4 min read


Because Attack on Ukraine, Hollywood’s largest studios have stopped releasing movies in Russia, and Netflix has stopped serving there. But recently, films of some companies have started appearing in Russian movie theaters – illegally.

The exhibits are reminiscent of the Soviet era, when the only way to watch most Western movies was to access the pirated version. Where those movies reached the Russians in the form of smuggled VHS tapes, cinemas in the country today have an easy, fast way: the Internet. Many websites offer bootleg copies of movies that take minutes to download.

Some theaters in Russia are now openly showing pirated movies. Others are becoming more cautious, allowing private individuals to rent places to watch movies, for free or for a fee. For example, one group rented several screening rooms at a movie theater in Yekaterinburg, then used social media to invite people to buy tickets to watch. “Batman.”

Visitors to Theater can also see “The Batman” in the city of Ivanovo, a five-hour drive from Moscow. In the Caucasus region of Dagestan’s capital, Makhchkala, a movie theater is being screened. “Don’t look up”; And in Cheetah, a town near the Mongolian border, parents can take their children to see. “Turning red” Disney and Pixar animated film.

The secret show is the latest attempt by Russian movie theaters to survive after American studios like Disney, Warner Bros. and Paramount left the country in protest. Films made in the United States before the war in Ukraine are made about it. 70% of the Russian film marketAccording to state media.

But despite efforts to attract audiences, last month, Russians barely made it to the movies. According to Malik, theaters saw a nearly half drop in ticket sales in March, compared to the same period last year. Theater Owners Association.

Artem Komolyatov, a 31-year-old video game producer in Moscow, noticed the change when he and his wife went to see a movie on Friday a few weeks ago. With everything going on politically, they both wanted to spend a few hours in a quiet environment with other people, Komolyatov said, “watching something together, maybe laughing and crying.”

They chose “Everything everywhere at onceA film from independent American studio A24, which stopped releasing films in Russia in mid-April.

Komolyatov said the scene was strange when he arrived at the movie theater. “Besides us, there were three other people,” he said. “We went at 8pm on the weekends. Usually the theater is full.

Given the lack of audience and content, The Theater Owners Association predicts. That at least half of the cinemas in Russia will be out of business in the next two months.

Even if this prediction is true, history has shown that movies will reach audiences with or without legal channels. Decades ago, Soviet civic office spaces, living rooms, and cultural centers gathered to see pirated copies of Western classics such as “Rocky,” “The Terminator,” and “9 Weeks,” which were made of iron curtains. Made his way back.

During the turbulent years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, piracy continued to be an important access to Hollywood movies in Russia. Movies recorded on VHS tapes sold in local markets were often shot explicitly on a hand-held camcorder in a movie theater. to be continued. A Soviet traditionThe films were dubbed into Russian over time by voice actors, often only one for all male characters, and the other for females.

Once the first Western-style movie theater opened in Moscow in 1996, the channels of illegal distribution began to close. A study by the Social Science Research Council, A non-profit based in New York. In the early 2000’s, Russians flocked to the theaters to watch legally distributed world-famous films such as “Avatar” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. According to, Russia became the ninth largest foreign box office market. Motion Picture Association.

Now the future of Hollywood movies in Russia is bleak.

Last week, about 250 people went to see the “premiere” of “The Batman” in Moscow, according to the 25-year-old theater director and artist who arranged the screening, calling it a work of performance art.

Approving the illegal Soviet screening, Mr Helichev said he had “tried to run the underground environment” by placing a projector in the middle of the room between rows of unparalleled chairs.

But there are important differences in the Soviet era. For one thing, the current Western blockbusters are no longer legally available in Russia because of the decisions of Hollywood studios, not because of the censorship imposed by the Kremlin. And illegal screening poses no threat to viewers, and much less to organizers.

“It would have been impossible two months ago,” said Mr Helichev. “Now you can download movies using torrents, sell tickets, and what happens? There are no results.”



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