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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Hollywood movies may return to Russian theaters

The country’s cinema industry took a big hit after Western movie makers halted film releases over the conflict in Ukraine

The Russian parliament is working on legislation that would allow cinemas to show Hollywood movies without the consent of copyright owners in a move to beat a boycott of the country by Western film production giants.

The legislation on compulsory licensing of Western copyright products would permit cinemas to show new Hollywood blockbusters, Anton Gorelkin, the deputy head of the State Duma committee on information policy, said on Monday.

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The legal initiative, which has been the subject of discussion for some time, would allow the use of digital content such as films, music and software without the permission of copyright holders from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.

In March, Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount and Universal Pictures vowed to keep upcoming films out of Russian theaters in response to the country’s military operation in Ukraine.

The decision to pull content from the Russian market prompted theaters to develop a scheme enabling them to circumvent the ban and offset losses arising from canceled Western releases. This involved a so-called “pre-screening service” by which tickets are sold for one film, but a Hollywood blockbuster is shown before it for free.

“It’s time to put an end to the disputes about the mechanism of compulsory licensing of Western films this year. According to my information, legislation that will allow cinemas to legally show new foreign films is being discussed – and stop using the semi-legal practice of ‘pre-screening,’” Gorelkin wrote on his Telegram channel.

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Earlier, Russia’s Association of Cinema Owners supported the initiative to introduce compulsory licensing of copyright and related rights to films, software, books and other digital products that have become inaccessible in Russia.

In 2022, film distribution in Russia suffered a slump of between 50% and 70% after Western moviemakers halted theatrical releases. Industry losses amounted to about 4.5 billion rubles ($64 million).