Russia Mulls Tough Quota on Foreign Films Amid Ukraine Crisis

The parliament of Vladimir Putin-led Russia is looking at a new law that would limit foreign films to no more than half of around 350 annual releases.

UPDATED: A draft law that would limit foreign releases to 50 percent could hit U.S. movies, which currently account for around 70 percent of Russia's annual box office.

MOSCOW – Russia is planning to cut back on the number of U.S. and other foreign films released on its territory.

The Russian parliament is looking to introduce a quota, which would limit foreign films to no more than half of around 350 annual releases in the country under an initial proposal, which was first reported by a Russian newspaper on Tuesday.

The new law could sharply cut the number of U.S. releases, which would hit revenues of Hollywood studios. U.S. movies account for around 70 percent of Russia's annual $1.3 billion box office.

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The draft law on a quota would oblige distribution companies to ensure that 50 percent of their releases are Russian movies, daily newspaper Izvestia reported Tuesday.

The law, introduced by Kremlin loyalists, comes just days after lawmakers voted to bring Crimea under Russian control following a regional referendum that has been criticized internationally as illegal and unconstitutional. Crimea has been part of Ukraine since 1954; Ukraine became an independent country following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian Duma deputy, Robert Shlegel, who introduced the quota bill, told Izvestia that only 50 percent of theatrical releases could come from outside Russia. “We're not talking about a complete ban on U.S. films," he said.

He added that the draft law had no connection to the sanctions recently slapped on senior Russian officials and companies over Russia's annexation on Crimea.

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In separate news Tuesday, Russian media reported that Hollywood majors are refusing to allow new releases to be shown in Crimean cinemas.

The first film to be affected could be Paramount's Biblical epic Noah, due for release in Russia and Ukraine on Thursday.

Vladimir Miroshnichenko, director of Crimea's oldest cinema, the Shevchenko, told Russian media that the ban follows the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula by Russia.

Studios said to have introduced the ban are Sony, Paramount, Fox and Universal. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Vadim Smirnov, general director of 20th Century Fox CIS, denied there was a ban in place for the studios' films in Crimea.

"20th Century Fox movies were and still are distributed at Crimean theaters by our old-time colleagues and friends, almost brothers, UFD (Ukrainian Film Distribution)," Smirnov said. "Exhibition contracts [for Crimea] were signed between a Ukrainian company, UFD, and other Ukrainian companies, the theaters."

But Smirnov did note that legally, Crimea's new status it impossible to distribute films already licensed under existing Ukrainian contracts. Crimea's disputed referendum, in which residents of the region voted to join Russia, has put the region in a legal limbo. Russia views the region as autonomous, not longer part of Ukraine.

"I cannot legally make a contract between a Russian company, Fox' [Russian office], and a Ukrainian company (in Crimea) right now," Smirnov said. "To have at least some smallest hope for progress, Crimean theaters need to be registered as Russian companies."