Russian Exhibitors Call for Revision of License-Issuing Procedure

The pushback of the release date of 'Paddington 2' stirred up huge controversy in Russia.

The move was caused by recent controversies over releases of 'Paddington 2' and 'The Death of Stalin.'

Recent controversies in Russia over exhibition licenses for Paddington 2 and The Death of Stalin may lead to an overhaul of the entire system of license issuing as exhibitors call for more transparency and clearer rules.

The most radical proposal put forward by exhibitors was to strip the culture ministry of the authority to issue exhibition licenses and transfer the task to another agency, specifically created to handle such licensing.

However, the majority of exhibitors prefers a more moderate approach.

"The problem with exhibition licenses is not in the specific government agency, which issues them, but in the procedure and system, which are not transparent and fail to protect the [exhibition] industry from arbitrary changes of release dates," Olga Zinyakova, president of cinema chain KARO, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"In addition, reasons for declining to issue an exhibition license for a specific date are not stipulated anywhere," she continued. "Apparently, the recent [controversies] should become a serious ground for revising the conditions for issuing exhibition licenses."

In mid-January, the culture ministry pushed back the release of Paddington 2 by two weeks, using its authority to move the dates of foreign releases, but did not explain which homemade movie the agency tried to protect with the rescheduling.

A public outcry and protests from exhibitors and distributors forced the ministry to back down. However, just days later, it stirred up another controversy by withdrawing the exhibition license of Death of Stalin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by news agency TASS as saying that the idea of amending the exhibition license procedure "should be discussed."

An exhibition license is mandatory in Russia for any theatrical screening. Since last year, exhibition licenses have been issued for specific release dates.