×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Will the Tensions Between the U.S. and Russia Hurt Hollywood?

Events in Ukraine have set diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia on edge, but also at potential risk is one of America’s top exports: Hollywood movies. 

Russia is the ninth-biggest box office territory in the world, with a gross of $1.24 billion last year — and U.S. films took a whopping 75% share of that total. Plus, the Russian market is still growing, unlike the other major European markets.

But in recent months, legislation from politicians linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been proposed that, if acted upon, could harm Hollywood’s business.

In late March, Robert Schlegel, a deputy for Putin’s United Russia party, said he was drafting a measure that would introduce a 50% cap on the number of foreign films shown in Russian cinemas. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also proposed a tax be levied on the release of foreign films, and called for a duty to be imposed on some movie imports.

The danger is that the establishment of tougher economic sanctions by the U.S. against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula, could tempt Putin to punish U.S. interests in Russia — and Hollywood might prove an easy target for reprisals.

However, many in the Russian industry have pointed out that restricting access to Hollywood movies would be counterproductive. The move would fuel piracy, and could adversely affect local production services.

“The infrastructure that is being developed in Russia is there for all films, and if the commercial incentives to develop cease, that would be a loss also for the Russian industry, because they need that infrastructure,” says Chris Marcich, the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s chief in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Moreover, Hollywood studios release Russian movies within the territory, as well as distributing their own films there.

“I am sure that the American majors would not be interested in any weakening of the relationship,” Ilya Bachurin, chief exec at Russian film studio Glavkino, says. “Only political motivations could be the reason for this. I hope that common sense will prevail.”

Indeed, most observers downplay the risks of U.S. sanctions on the entertainment industry.

American Paul Heth, CEO of the top theater chain in Russia, Karo Film, which recently announced a $150 million expansion program, is hopeful that the international situation will have no
harmful effects. “While there have been talks for a number of years in the Duma about various measures to further support the growth and development of Russian film,” Heth says, “I do not see
a scenario where a draconian change will be made that would hurt the overall cinema industry.”

However, the Ukraine crisis already has hit the Russian biz. Ukrainian releases of some Russian films, such as Alexey Uchitel’s “Break Loose,” have been scrapped. But Uchitel, who heads Rock Films, one of the few Russian production companies that develops projects with international partners on a regular basis, remains positive.

“We speak the universal language of film,” he says, “and we look at each other’s filmographies and professional reputation rather than react to news headlines.”

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    MGM to Adapt Rodney Dangerfield Comedy 'Back to School' as Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rodney Dangerfield may finally be getting some respect in the halls of higher education. MGM Television is developing a docu-series inspired by the 1986 Dangerfield film “Back to School,” in which the comedian’s character, millionaire Thorton Melon, enrolls in college with his son to keep him from dropping out. In typical Dangerfield fashion, he triggers [...]

  • Michelle Rejwan Lucasfilm

    Lucasfilm Hires 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Producer Michelle Rejwan

    Lucasfilm has hired “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” producer Michelle Rejwan as senior vice president of live action development and production. Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy made the announcement Monday. Rejwan was a co-producer on 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” a co-producer on JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and an associate producer on [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Production

    'Game of Thrones,' Netflix VFX Among Those to Be Featured in SIGGRAPH Production Talks

    VFX pros behind the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster film “Avengers: Endgame,” Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4,” last year’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Netflix series, including “Stranger Things,” and more will give SIGGRAPH 2019 attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their work during the conference’s Production Sessions. There will even be a [...]

  • Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate Planning 'Hunger Games' Prequel Movie

    Lionsgate has begun working on a “Hunger Games” prequel movie, based on a forthcoming novel from writer Suzanne Collins. “As the proud home of the ‘Hunger Games’ movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne’s next book to be published. We’ve been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to [...]

  • Siberia Keanu Reeves

    Saban Films Turns 5: How the Indie Studio Grew While Rivals Faltered

    Saban Films doesn’t make the most noise. It doesn’t have the splashiest premieres or parties. But the indie film label just quietly did what many of its early rival failed to pull off. It celebrated its fifth anniversary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “We stuck to our plan,” Saban Films founder Bill Bromiley told [...]

  • Emanuel

    Film Review: 'Emanuel'

    Mass shootings continue to be a shameful stain on contemporary American history. They strike at such a frequent rate that the way they occupy news cycles before losing the public’s short-spanned attention has become appallingly routine. With his somber documentary “Emanuel,” released by Fathom Events in theaters for two nights only (June 17 and 19), [...]

  • Men in Black International

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International,' 'Shaft' Add to Summer Sequel Slump

    As “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” join the growing list of under-performing sequels this summer — an ignominious group that includes “Dark Phoenix” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” — worries of franchise fatigue are beginning to simmer in Hollywood. “Franchises that don’t up the ante or bring anything new into the fold are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content