Russian arthouse distribs in digital distress

They threaten to boycott sales agents who overcharge

Russian arthouse distributors are threatening to boycott movies sold by agents who charge too much for digital copies or refuse to send digital masters to Russia.

“We just want normal market rates and the possibility to work with digital masters,” said Sam Klebanov of Moscow-based Cinema Without Frontiers, one of the country’s leading arthouse distributors.

“The relationship between seller and buyer has always been tricky, but this year we’ve noticed new, alarming tendencies: The prices for digital source materials are fixed by the seller arbitrarily and the extra costs sometimes can rival the minimum guarantee itself.”

Klebanov and the heads of other key companies, including VolgaFilm, Carmen Film, Drugoe Kino and P&I Films Distribution, say the prices demanded for digital masters can vary between a few hundred dollars and thousands.

Some agents provide all necessary materials to localize films and make digital copies in local languages, while others, citing piracy concerns, refuse to ship masters to Moscow and demand copies are ordered directly from them, pushing up costs.

Klebanov said Russian distributors are also concerned about piracy and only work with reputable certified labs from which no cases of piracy have been reported.

He warns that if international sales agents don’t respond to concerns, arthouse and limited release distribution in Russia could simply disappear.

Unless the situation changes, Klebanov warned that distributors will either demand a correspondingly reduced minimum guarantee or be told their films face an extremely limited chance of a theatrical release.

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