127 Russian Theaters Steal Movies, and the Boss Says, “I Don’t Blame Them”

Teddy Sagi
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Russia Cinemas Resort to Piracy

All of Russia’s movie theaters are on the verge of closing down. About 16 theaters showed pirated copies of the newest movies a few weeks ago. Last week, it was in 127 theaters. Even the Association of Cinema Owners head of Russia can’t find much reason to be hopeful. He says:

“I can’t even blame theaters for trying out torrent screenings now.” Not because they want to make money, but because they need to stay alive”

When Vladimir Putin gave the order for the latest part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he knew two things. 1) There would be consequences, but 2) they wouldn’t affect him.

Five months later, the effects are being felt worldwide, but nowhere as strongly as in Ukraine. Tens of thousands have died, millions have been forced to leave their homes, and the economy will take decades to recover. At least a thousand foreign companies have left Russia. The country can’t use SWIFT, and about $630 billion in foreign reserve cash has been frozen.

Russia’s Cinema Industry On Life Support

Russia’s movie business is in danger because of the Ukraine war. Previously we learned about how Crypto and NFT were affected by it. After Hollywood shut down, there wasn’t much money-making entertainment to show. So different groups started renting out empty theaters to show “private” pirate screenings of torrented movies.

Some might say it makes sense to watch “The Batman” in a theater after downloading it from a torrent site. After all, that would solve the supply problem immediately and let people watch movies. On the other hand, this way of doing business sidesteps an entire industry built around licensed content, stability, investment, and the jobs that come with it.

But now that no licensed content exists, it’s a race to the bottom.

Research shows that the damage to the movie business in the first half of 2022 is worse than the pandemic did. The Russian Association of Cinema Owners (AVK) said that they would leave UNIC, the International Union of Cinemas in Europe.

In a press release, AVK said it was leaving because of sanctions, Hollywood’s refusal to send movies, and “anti-Russian rhetoric.” However, the group didn’t offer any ideas about what might have caused relations to break down quickly.

In the meantime, things are getting worse in Russia every day. Before the studios left, Hollywood movies made up about 70% of significant releases. It looks like the authorities have no plans to stop people from trying to fill the gaps with unlicensed content.

skull pirates with sword illustration

Cinema Piracy is Growing Remarkably Quickly

In May, when pirate screenings became more popular, AVK asked “the entire professional film community” to stand up against piracy to protect the Russian film industry. “We are against the practice of showing illegal movies in Russian theaters,” AVK said.

The number of pirate screenings seems to have gone up a lot after the Russian government said it would protect the industry’s finances but didn’t do so. Alexei Voronkov, the head of AVK, knows there is a problem, but he is also realistic. Since AVK’s revenue has dropped by 72% since 2021 and 50% of cinemas could close by August, he has to be.

“I can’t even blame cinemas now dabbling in torrent screenings,” he told industry publication Kinometro.

“To date, the wave of unauthorized showing of film copies is developing exponentially and will only grow: four weeks ago, such content was shown directly in 16 cinemas, last week – 127 cinemas.”

The End

When legitimacy is replaced by a chaotic black market with no idea of added value or way to deliver it, investors who want a steady long-term return will probably look elsewhere. Those who have money in the game will get ready to lose it, move it, or cut their losses. They don’t have anything exciting to sell anymore; all they have are copies that aren’t as good.

Movies that were copied or stolen When there are no other legal options, it’s OK to show films in theaters. But when things get back to normal, whenever that might be, will there be any theaters left in Russia where real movies can be shown? Local industry has been on the verge of collapse for six months, and it doesn’t look like the Ukraine crisis will be solved in the next six years.

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