An initiative of the EU MEDIA Programme with the support of the Italian Government Since 1992 MEDIA Salles has been promoting the European cinema and its circulation at theatrical level


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 forty.
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 of entertainment.
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 move.
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 accessories.
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 Kino".
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.

Elisabetta Brunella