June 22, 2009 / 9:56 AM / 10 years ago

Economic crisis clouds Moscow film festival

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Shrugging off a cold drizzle and disappointing box office receipts, Moscow opened its annual film festival to patriotic tales and big screen epics over the weekend.

This year’s 10-day festival wilL feature the film “Czar” — a tale of battles and survival in 16th century Russia whose main character is Ivan the Terrible.

The festival opened in the shadow of comments from one of the country’s biggest movie financiers, who said that Russia’s film industry needs state support led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to help it cope with the impact of the global economic crisis.

“All production companies and distribution in general have been hit by the financial crisis,” Alexander Rodnyansky, boss of entertainment company CTC media, told Reuters earlier this month. “I would call it a cold shower.”

Rodnyansky helped finance the Russian 4-1/2 hour sci-fi film “Inhabited Island,” one of Russia’s highest budget productions, made last year before the main impact of the crisis.

The film cost about $35 million to make and had expected a box office return of about $70 million after its release at the end of last year. It only managed to pull in ticket sales of roughly $25 million.

Now he said a new state committee headed by Putin was prepared to direct funding to large film production and distribution companies to boost the domestic industry.

“This gives an indication to the whole market on how important the film industry is today, we’ve never had a committee at such a level,” Rodnyansky said.

The state has a long history of financing films and Rodnyansky said the new committee was to focus on how better to spend cash and not about adding a layer of censorship.

Russia has been hit hard by the economic crisis and predictions of a boom in cinema viewers have not materialised.

But Rodnyansky said Russia still has huge potential as a market for films. He said it was the sixth biggest cinema market in Europe and that Russian language films had an audience of 300 million — including the countries of the former Soviet Union.

One problem it had to confront was the limited infrastructure with around a third of Russia’s cinemas located in either Moscow or the second city of St Petersburg.

“Cities with a population of less than half-a-million, most of these cities don’t have modern cinemas at all,” he said.

Writing by James Kilner, editing by Paul Casciato

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