Until about fifteen years ago, the Russians visited the cinema approximately
twenty times a year on average - a frequency that had been enjoyed by
the countries of Western Europe up to the fifties. The more reliable estimates
tell us that now every Russian citizen buys a maximum of half a ticket
a year. From over 200 titles a year, film production has dropped to around
Some companies operating in the various sectors of the cinema industry
- for example in the production of projectors - have ceased to exist.
The fall of socialism has thus involved - amongst other things - a radical
disruption in the world of the cinema at an economic, social and cultural
level. The old cinemas - up to the beginning of the nineties there were
over 25,000 screens, operating full- or part-time - have almost completely
disappeared and cinema-going is no longer a widespread and low-cost form
In recent years consumer patterns similar to those of the West have started
to take root, also with regard to the cinema, and new capital has meant
that traditional movie theatres have been restructured and transformed
into multi-screen cinemas and a new generation of purpose-built multi-screen
complexes has come into operation.
There is certainly confidence in the market's potential for development,
as emerged from the Kino Expo event held from 15 to 18 September in Moscow,
after four editions in St. Petersburg.
In the Expocenter area on the banks of the Moscova river, European and
US companies, together with their Russian representatives, offered their
products and their services to hundreds of Russian exhibitors, as well
as those coming from the Ukraine, the Baltic Republics and Belarus, with
the intention of investing in the renewing and expansion of Russia's cinemas.
Today the latter count only about 600 full-time commercial screens, for
a population of over 140 million inhabitants.
The number and type of projects recently completed or in the planning
phases is further proof that this is a sector where things are on the
Simultaneously with Kino Expo, the second Russian multiplex was opened:
this is the Kino Star De Lux, belonging to "National Amusements", offering
11 screens of high technological quality and all comforts, with a total
of 3,250 stadium seats.
Situated in the north-west suburbs of Moscow, in the MEGA shopping centre,
alongside giants of European mass distribution, like IKEA and Auchan,
the new complex features a European look, highlighting the great names
in design, including Kartell for the furnishings of the bars situated
in the centre and around the ample foyer, or Duravit for the bathroom
The vivid reds and oranges, combined with electric blue, of the foyer
and the corridors, contrast with the shades of black and grey used for
the walls, seats and carpeting in the theatres.
An international look, but not without some more authentic Russian elements,
which might be worth copying - for example the wardrobe - decidedly useful
for allowing spectators to watch films without having overcoats or fur
coats piled in their laps, the "VIP" theatres (at the Kino Star De Lux
there are 2 out of 11) with larger seats and a more diversified programme
(as well as higher prices!), the size of the theatres and the number of
seats which are larger on average than in Western European multiplexes
(at the Kino Star De Lux the largest theatre has around 700 seats, and
the smallest around 200).
If the new generation of multi-screen theatres in Western and Central
Europe seem to be the point of reference for investors in Russia, there
are also those that choose, instead, to aim at originality. A case in
point is Paradise Film, an independent production and distribution company
which has recently approached the exhibition sector, choosing mainly to
restructure existing cinemas in the centre of Moscow.
The complex that can be taken as a symbol of Paradise Film's strategy
is the Five Stars: five screens for a total of 900 tiered seats, projectors
'made in Italy' by Cinemeccanica, in the densely populated neighbourhood
of the Paveljetskaya station.
The result of radical restructuring of an old building characterised by
a sumptuous fašade with pillars, reminiscent of a Roman temple, the Five
Stars is surprising from many points of view.
From the outside, where modern steel structures have been placed in the
space between the pillars and much of the surface space is devoted to
the presentation of the programmes and special events, a preference for
modern design can already be seen, with the main aim of communicating
with the spectator by going beyond the traditional forms of film advertising.
Inside, balconies and walkways are used to arrange the different areas,
designed to satisfy the various needs of the audiences, around a central
shaft drawing light from above, in which a real waterfall and a transparent
lift are situated.
As well as the three bars and two restaurants, there is the space that
is the main feature of the Five Stars, consisting in a play area for children
arranged around a "Noah's ark" and even equipped with a miniature train
running round the whole cinema. While the adults watch a film or dine
at the restaurant, expert staff take care of the children, who can play,
draw and even become the stars of a video.
But how much does it cost to go to the cinema in Moscow? Prices vary greatly,
mostly according to the day, the time and the place.
Generally speaking, in a multi-screen cinema towards the suburbs, prices
start from 30/40 roubles on a weekday morning, rising to at least 150
roubles for the 7 p.m. screening on a Saturday. However, the more central
seats cost at least 30 roubles more.
If a more central cinema is preferred, prices at the weekend rise to at
least 300 roubles. They are even higher in the VIP theatres with exclusive
facilities (including restaurant service) in cinemas such as the "Formula
Moreover, those who wish to see a film on the IMAX 3D screen can spend
up to 550 roubles. To judge whether this is expensive or not, it can be
remembered that one euro is worth 34 roubles, but also that an underground
journey costs 7 roubles and that the monthly salary of a shop assistant
is around 6,000 roubles.
Watching a film at the cinema is certainly no longer a popular, low-cost
form of entertainment but it continues to be a favourite leisure-time
activity. Moreover, according to experts and analysts in the sector, there
seems to be an increase in the number of people who can afford it - even
at prices that are similar or even higher than those in Western Europe.