Russia Gives Ministry Power to Move Hollywood Releases

Vladimir Medinsky

A new law will let Moscow change Hollywood release dates if they conflict with local titles.

Russia's culture ministry has obtained the right to set dates for all film releases in the country and said it will use it to give preference to local movies over Hollywood releases in cases of date clashes.

"We are only worried about releases of Russian films," culture minister Vladimir Medinsky was quoted as saying by news agency TASS. "It is important for us to make sure that they recoup their budgets."

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He added: "We won't fight for every [Russian] film, though. We will set financial, political or ideological priorities." The new powers are effective immediately. No immediate clashes of release dates were mentioned. Hollywood releases again dominated the Russian box office in 2014.

According to Medinsky, if a release date of a major Russian movie coincides with that of a potentially high-grossing Hollywood movie, the release date of the latter will be moved to make sure that there is no competition for the Russian release.

The culture ministry, which issues exhibition licenses for all films, will now have the authority to specify a release date in the exhibition license it gives films, an idea that was first floated late last year. The ministry, part of the Russian government, announced the new release-dating powers, and Medinsky discussed them on Wednesday.

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Speaking with local distributors, Medinsky urged distributors to "negotiate between themselves" to make sure that no major foreign release is scheduled for the planned release date of a homegrown film, so the government doesn't have to step in. As an example, he mentioned A Zori Zdes Tikhiye (The Dawns Here are Quiet), Renat Davletyarov's remake of the 1972 Oscar-nominated WWII drama, which is slated for release on April 30.

The culture ministry's move is part of its increased financial and ideological control over local film production and exhibition.

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