Ukrainian law stifles boxoffice

Since dubbing law passed, revenue fell 3%

MOSCOW -- A new Ukrainian law stipulating that all foreign-language films be dubbed into Ukrainian or have Ukrainian subtitles is being held responsible for a decline in boxoffice revenue.

In March, Ukrainian theaters collected $36.7 million in ticket sales, a 3% drop from last year's corresponding period, while in neighboring Russia, the same period saw a 32% surge at the boxoffice.

The enactment of the law caught Ukrainian distributors off guard. Previously, they could use Russian-language copies, which the new law no longer permits. Consequently, the distributors were unable to prepare Ukrainian-language copies of some movies, including "Asterix at the Olympic Games," the release of which was postponed by almost two months. Other movies didn't make theaters at all.

"The market has slowed down significantly because of this Ukrainian-language law," said Alexei Naslednikov, general director of Kinosistema, a company that runs 11 theaters in the territory. "As a result, the recoup period for investment in a movie theater is increasing."

The enactment of the language law primarily affected theaters in the eastern part of the country, where the majority of the population speak Russian.

"The theatrical distribution market is certainly stagnating," said Dmitry Kolesnikov, vp of the Association of Ukrainian Film Producers. "There has been talk about closing down some theaters."

So far, no theater has been shut down as a result of the language law. However, theater owners say that it will now be more difficult for independent movies to make it to Ukrainian theaters. "Dubbing or subtitling every film into Ukrainian means additional costs for distributors," Naslednikov said. "So they are likely to reject independent movies that don't promise high boxoffice figures."