Foreign indie films in peril as Russia adds harsh penalties to steep licence fees

Foreign indie films in peril as Russia adds harsh penalties to steep licence fees
Still from It Comes at Night (2017, dir. Trey Edward Shults), which screened 2,800 times in Russia over the weekend but made poor returns

29 August 2017

In April this year, Russia's Ministry of Culture announced plans to dramatically increase the exhibition licence fee for foreign film releases in the country, sparking fears for the fate of independent movies. Now the ministry has added a harsh penalty to encourage distributors to pay up on time — a potential total ban on future film screenings anywhere in Russia.

The licence fee price hike — due to come into force on 1 January 2018 — would see the fee for each film jump from 3,000 rubles ($53) to 5 million rubles ($88,420), making it near impossible for most indie film distributors to profit from a Russian release. In its latest announcement, the culture ministry also reneged on its commitment to apply the new fee only to films appearing on more than 100 cinema screens in Russia, instead applying an exception only to films screened fewer than 100 separate times.

Under the new law, distribution companies that fail to pay the new fee will see screenings of the film in question halted until payment is received. If a company refuses to pay up it can, in theory, be banned from ever showing films in Russia.

The fee will also apply to Russian films, but this will be refunded by the Cinema Foundation of Russia (Fond Kino). A ministry representative told Russian newspaper Vedomosti that the new restrictions would be put in place “to maximise box office success for Russian cinema”, adding that foreign films could instead be watched online.

Source: TJournal (in Russian)