Movies still in vogue for Russians as budgets bite into new projects

2009 has seen the Russian film and TV industry take a hit along with the rest of the economy, although Russian film goers have continued to find the Roubles for a trip to the cinema.

In a year of economic turmoil, the Russian film industry seems to have survived unscathed.

Movie theaters took well over $700 million dollars in Russia which is 20% more than in 2008. Sergey Sorokin, General Director of Luxor Cinemas says the future is looking up.

“Frankly, we didn't feel the effect of the crisis too much. In beginning of 2009 we took more in Russian currency terms than in the same period in 2008. Hollywood movies like Ice Period and Avatar have contributed a lot to the annual Box office receipts. 3-d equipped cinema halls have mushroomed from 80 in the beginning of 2009 and to 350 by the end of the year. This trend will continue in 2010 and the average ticket price will rise.”

Russia's filmmakers on the contrary found themselves struggling. Out of 355 films released for distribution in Russia, domestic producers accounted for just a quarter. Maxim Rozenblit, Business Development Director at IFC Metropol says funding has dropped.

“Russian movie makers have been definitely hit by the crisis. State backing was significantly lower and we didn't see that many films. The main focus of efforts was more on the TV series. And I think the trend will remain in 2010.”

Shooting TV series is often more secure, because production companies usually work to contract, and are assured of payment. But Actress, Ekaterina Madalinskaya, says the crisis led advertisers to cut spending on commercials by 20 percent – which hit commissioning budgets.

“The slump in film production has affected TV serials as well. Salaries tumbled three fold and sometimes even more. Mosfilm's studio complex which used to bustle with life looked deserted. Many projects were frozen. I heard of one hundred projects that were put on hold.”

The crisis may ultimately benefit Russia's independent producers. In the past 8 years the budgets of many TV producers ballooned, fed by buoyant advertising. The number of production companies mushroomed up to 2 hundred. Those who survive may be stronger and more efficient.