Hollywood Majors' Russian Units Could Benefit from Trump Election, Experts Say

MOSCOW, RUSSIA -A general view of Red square and Kremlin-Getty-H 2016
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However, the local film and TV companies are unlikely to feel an impact, say industry folks.

It's early to gauge what, if any, impact Donald Trump's win in the U.S. presidential election may have on the Russian entertainment industry, but any improvement in relations between Russia and the U.S. could benefit Hollywood majors operating in the country, according to observers.

For local film companies, any potential impact is likely to be less noticeable, they say.

"Any possible impact will depend upon to what degree the current tensions between the two countries are going to be alleviated," says Dmitry Litvinov, head of distribution company Planeta Inform, The Hollywood Reporter. "But [Trump's election] comes as rather positive news for U.S. companies operating in Russia as Trump is more focused on business than on ideological war."

Many expect a reset in U.S.-Russian relations, given the mutual appreciation that Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin have expressed.

And if meetings take place, recurring ideas and proposals for quotas for Hollywood fare are likely to be shelved for at least a while, say industry watchers.

The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, which has considered several initiatives aimed at imposing restrictions on Hollywood movies in Russia over the last two and a half years, greeted the news of Trump's election with applause and said it was hopeful about improving ties between the two countries under the incoming U.S. president.

Oleg Berezin, managing director of St. Petersburg-based research and analysis firm Nevafilm, says he thinks Trump's election will be taken as a good sign. "I believe that nothing will change to the negative — on the contrary, Russians believe that now we have the chance to make our relations with the U.S. more positive," he tells THR. "We have here in Russia the same kind of person — [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky [the head of Russia's right-wing LDPR party], and Putin very well knows how to make deals with such guys."

Trump was positive on Crimea — the Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russia in 2014 — and Putin was likely to side with Trump against Europe in any international discussions, he added.

Other observers are more cautious. "I do not believe that there will be a substantial effect of Trump's presidency on the filmed entertainment business," Alexander Rodnyansky, who produced Russia's Oscar-nominated film Leviathan, tells THR.

"On news coverage — yes, obviously," Rodnyansky adds. "American films have always been a money spinner for Russian TV channels and remain popular with audiences." And he says: "The major factor affecting this market was price, and since the ruble dropped sharply in price against the dollar, buying Hollywood films for TV has become more expensive."

Concludes Rodnyansky: "As long as Hollywood will provide a steady stream of CGI-heavy fantasy entertainment, Russian audience would gladly pay for that no matter who is in the White House."

Others take more of a wait-and-see approach. "It is difficult to say what the Russian reaction will be," says Simone Baumann, the German producer of cutting-edge Russian documentaries, such as Vitaly Mansky's Pipeline and controversial North Korean film Under the Sun.

According to her, there is likely to be little or no impact for Russian TV and cinema. "They didn't care too much about this election," she says. "They are busy with themselves."

As to whether Trump's election may make "brand America" less appealing abroad, which could lead to lower sales of programming, such as war films for example, she also doubts that Russians care. "The notion that Russian television may also adopt a more populist 'blue collar' approach to shows, reflecting the socio-economic profile of many of Trump's supporters, is again of little or no interest in Russia," she says.

Baumann concludes that the real impact from Trump's upcoming inauguration will become apparent over time. "The official Russian position is — let's wait and see," she tells THR. "They are waiting for his team and the first decisions."