Russian Exhibitors Stop Local Film's Legal Online Release

'The Geographer Drank His Globe Away'

Cinema chains, which are screening "The Geographer Drank Away His Globe," protested against the movie's day-and-date online availability.

MOSCOW -- The simultaneous online run of high-profile Russian theatrical release Geograf Globus Propil (The Geographer Drank Away His Globe) has been terminated due to pressure from cinema chains.

The $3 million movie, which collected the main award at Russia’s main national fest Kinotavr in June and later picked up the main award at the Odessa International Film Festival, was released on Nov. 7 in theaters and on legitimate online video services Ivi and Play. However, theater chains Karo and Cinema Park were unhappy to learn about the online release.

“By simultaneously releasing the film online, the producers breached a standard practice, under which a movie should not be made available on other media within a month of its theatrical release,” Sergei Kitin, general director of Cinema Park, told The Hollywood Reporter. “As a result, we refused to extend the original one-week exhibition agreement unless the film’s online run was terminated.”

According to Kitin, Geographer’s producers apologized and confirmed that the movie was no longer available online, after which the film’s run at Cinema Park’s theaters was resumed.

The movie was available on Ivi, which mostly operates on an ad-sponsored model, on a pay-per-view basis for $10.50 (349 rubles), a sum larger than the price of an average movie ticket in Russia. “We are glad with the results of the week, during which we offered the film before the distributor requested that we pull it out,” a spokesman for Ivi told THR. He wouldn’t disclose specifics of Ivi’s contract with the distributor or the film’s online gross.

Meanwhile, he insisted that a legitimate online release wouldn’t harm movie theaters, arguing that online viewers and regular moviegoers don’t overlap.

“We are satisfying demand from online audiences,” he said. “Some of them live far away from movie theaters, and if a smaller town has just one movie theater, it wouldn’t necessarily screen that film. Plus, we invested our resources to promote the film.”

Kitin disagreed, saying that online theaters don’t incur risks and costs comparable to those cinema chains do. “Online exhibition doesn’t incur any costs,” he said. “But regular exhibition is an expensive business as we have to invest in construction of new theaters.”

So far, Geographer has grossed $3.7 million in Russian theaters, according to the Russian movie data base KinoPoisk.