This Week on The Boxoffice Podcast: Release Delays, Closures, and an Update on the Russian Market

KARO Aviapark, photo courtesy Karo

Relatively new as a theatrical exhibition market—compared to fellow European stalwarts like France and the U.K.—Russia has seen considerable growth in the past handful of years, doubling their admissions between 2007 and 2017 and ranking as the leading European territory by admissions in 2017 and 2019. Looking past volatility in local currency that skews box office results, the country recorded three consecutive years of 200M+ admissions from 2017-2019. 

Then, of course, came Covid-10, which had theaters in the country shut down by March 26. Staring July 15, theaters in the country could reopen again. The reopening process, however, was a gradual one impacted by the decisions of regional governments (cinemas in Moscow, for example, were allowed to open with capacity limits only starting August 1) and the make-up of the Russian exhibition landscape as a whole.

In Russia, explains Olga Zinyakova, President and CEO of cinema chain Karo, approximately 60 percent of cinemas do not belong to one of the major circuits, instead grouping up in small chains or existing as stand-alone cinemas, often in malls or shopping centers. In many of these cinemas, she explains, “the moviegoing experience is very poor. [The theaters] are quite old” and have not been maintained or updated particularly well over the years. Zinyakova estimates that between 15 and 20 percent of those cinemas either won’t re-open at all or “will close after this year,” potentially leading to consolidation in the Russian market. In Russia, says Zinyakova, “not many companies and cinemas can survive the crisis that we have right now.”

For the Russian market as a whole, however, there are some positive box office statistics. Karo—one of Russia’s leading chains, operating 32 cinemas across the country—reports that the Russian market “achieved similar operating results” in September 2020 as compared to September 2019. Between August 2020 and September 2020, admissions and box office nearly tripled. In the month of September, Russian cinemas brought in more than $25M in box office spread across over seven million admissions. 

Russia’s box office leader since the reopening of its theaters has been Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which earned $9.83M in the country through last weekend. Other major releases have included Mulan, teenage romance After We Collided, and local title Streltsov. “The numbers are quite good, which makes us quite optimistic about our future,” says Zinyakova. “Cinemas are open in 75 regions of Russia out of 85. So something like 80 percent of cinemas and cinema halls have reopened since the lockdown.” 

In this week’s Boxoffice Podcast, Zinyakova and Karo Group CEO Paul Heth, an exhibitor with decades of experience in the Russian market, sat down to discuss the growth of the Russian market in the ‘90s-early 21st century as well as its current state as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Listen to the full episode in the link below:

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KARO Aviapark, photo courtesy Karo

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