Police Raid Moscow Theater That Screened Banned 'Death of Stalin'

The Death of Stalin Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of TIFF

Armando Iannucci's movie was screened on Thursday and Friday in defiance of the culture ministry's ban.

On Friday, police raided the Moscow movie theater Pioner, which screened Armando Iannucci's movie The Death of Stalin, banned in Russia by the culture ministry, news agency TASS reported.

By the time several police officers showed up at the theater, located in central Moscow, the 11:50 a.m. screening was already over.

A police source, quoted by TASS, said the theater could be fined for screening the movie, whose exhibition license was withdrawn on Tuesday just two days before it was scheduled to open.

Meanwhile, a 9:50 p.m. screening was still listed on the movie theater's website as of 7 p.m. Moscow time on Friday.

Pioner, owned by tycoon Alexander Mamut, along with Formula Kino and Cinema Park movie theater chains also screened the movie on Thursday. It claimed that at the time of the screening, the exhibition license was still valid, in accordance with the culture ministry's registry on the agency's website.

Early on Friday, there was no mention of the exhibition license in the registry.

Meanwhile, the culture ministry confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the exhibition license was withdrawn on Tuesday and the distributor, Volga, was immediately informed.

The Death of Stalin, a black comedy focused on partially fictional infighting in the Kremlin that followed the death of Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1953, came under fire in Russia for allegedly distorting the country's history and making fun of its leaders.

Incidentally, two-and-a-half years ago, Pioner also screened Gaspar Noe's banned movie Love, saying it was part of a festival, and festival screenings didn't require an exhibition license.