Russia could have been reduce off from a lot of the worldwide movie neighborhood, however right here at Cannes, members of the nation’s media enterprise are quietly making an attempt to line up offers.
Practically three months into the struggle in Ukraine, the management of the movie pageant has spent its opening week fielding questions on its stance on Russia. Competition chief Thierry Frémaux, for occasion, was grilled over the inclusion of competitors title “Tchaikovsky’s Spouse,” a film with monetary ties to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. On the identical time, Ukrainian filmmakers on the Croisette referred to as for a complete boycott of Russian movie.
Regardless of the pageant’s public posturing — Cannes has determined to ban state delegations and any Russians with ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin whereas permitting particular person filmmakers to attend — Russian consumers are assembly with high gross sales brokers at the Marché du Movie. Their numbers are considerably down, however there’s no query that Putin’s Russia is open for enterprise on the French Riviera.
“All of the gross sales corporations, they’re welcoming Russians,” mentioned Armen Dishdishian, head of acquisitions at main Russian distributor Central Partnership, which is owned by Gazprom-Media. “They know me. They know different [Russian buyers]. They know the place we stand, in order that they haven’t any downside to sit down [with us].”
Russia confronted a swift backlash within the wake of its brutal invasion of Ukraine, with overseas governments transferring to impose sanctions on Putin, his inside circle, and a variety of enterprise pursuits together with banks and state-run corporations, similar to Gazprom-Media proprietor Gazprombank.
Hollywood studios joined the ranks of overseas corporations similar to Netflix and Amazon by pulling the plug on their Russian operations and scrapping the releases of blockbusters that make up an estimated 70% of the Russian field workplace.
With the business in freefall, distributors are determined for content material to preserve theaters working. The nation’s Assn. of Theater House owners initiatives a lack of $179 million this 12 months, a 25% drop on this planet’s sixth largest theatrical market in 2021. Half of Russian cinemas might shut this summer time with out a right away bailout, with the affiliation noting in a dire warning that “by the top of the summer time, there might be nobody to save.”
On the Cannes Movie Market, some business insiders are puzzled by the Russian presence on the Croisette. “We’re nonetheless getting provides from Russia. I can’t imagine it and I don’t perceive it, however we’re nonetheless getting provides from Russia,” a senior U.S. agent advised Selection.
Dishdishian estimates that the variety of Russians on the bottom in Cannes has dipped by 90% in contrast to earlier years. Regardless of blended messages from overseas gross sales brokers, although, he insists there are offers to be made. “Some teams mentioned, ‘No, we will’t. Don’t even ask,’” he mentioned. “Some teams say ‘Hear, let’s make a deal. Shake palms. However let’s see how the state of affairs [plays out].’” A number of different Russian distributors rumored to be on the bottom in Cannes didn’t reply to Selection’s requests for remark.
With wide-ranging sanctions and different efforts designed to shut Russia out of the worldwide monetary system, the dealmaking isn’t fairly reduce and dry. Although it’s nonetheless doable to transfer cash out and in of Russia, in accordance to a number one European gross sales agent, such transactions are topic to shut scrutiny by many governments. The authorized ramifications of doing enterprise with Russian entities can be usually unclear.
Lots of the company monoliths whose sprawling pursuits prolong into the leisure business have ties to sanctioned corporations and oligarchs, together with Severgroup, an funding firm whose holdings embrace the highly effective Nationwide Media Group. Gazprom-Media’s pursuits embrace not solely Central Partnership however a variety of broadcasters, manufacturing homes and a number one streaming service.
On Saturday, European Movie Academy president Agnieszka Holland was the most recent to slam the Cannes Movie Competition for its reluctance to take a tough stand in opposition to Russia. The Polish-born director, who fled to France in 1981 when Communist authorities imposed martial regulation, referred to as for a complete boycott of Russian tradition, saying: “If it had been up to me, I might not embrace Russian movies within the official program of the pageant.”
Contacted by Selection about Russia’s presence at the Cannes Marché du Movie, market boss Jerome Paillard declined to remark.