The Hermitage will come to Rzhev and Tikhvin
Get acquainted with the interview (reprinted from the Web site of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russian Journal), written by Valeriy Kichin: http://www.rg.ru/2011/03/15/pishugin-poln.html):
“The majority of Russians do not have access to the cinema.” – this statement was made by the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, at a meeting held in Belye Stolby. Last year, there were only 2,246 cinema theaters in 137 cities across Russia. The number of such theaters exceeded 15 thousand in the USSR thirty years ago. But now, the project – Kinoclub: Culture, Education, and Communication – has met with official approval. He suggested developing the construction of new-generation cinema theaters – large-scale leisure centers - in cities with populations numbering less than half a million people. We are now talking with one of the authors of this project, Eduard Pichugin, founder of the cinema networks, Kronwerk-Cinema and KINO CITY.
Eduard Pichugin: Post-Soviet regions are the only places in the world where operating cinemas suddenly disappeared. At the beginning of the eighties, a person generally averaged 20 visits to the cinema per year. And then, cinemas began to be massively reconstructed and motor shows and shopping centers took their place; most of the country lost its cinema industry. It was only in 1996 that film screenings were revived: the first modern cinema theater, Kodak-Kinomir (Kodak-Cinema World) opened in Moscow, and the market began to grow. However, even today, 60 percent of the population of the Russian Federation remains without access to the cinema. This is one of the reasons for the growing piracy business; instead of getting a good impression from well-made films, people have become used to substitute goods.
RJ: What would be an optimal number of cinema theaters for Russia?
Pichugin: There is a good parameter: the number of screens per 100 thousand people. There are more than nine in the USA, an average of six in Europe, and hardly more than two in Russia! What I mean is that the challenge raised by Vladimir Putin, namely to double the number of screens in our country, will only solve the problem partially, although it will help the film industry get back on its legs.
RJ: Are you really sure that the former demand for cinema has survived in our country?
Pichugin: Annual proceeds from cinema ticket sales have topped the billion dollar mark; Russia has taken sixth place in the world with regard to film presentations! Our film market is considered one of the most promising in the world. But, the problem is that the cinema network will take a long time to expand in such a spontaneous manner. The cinema industry represents a high-tech field. If we wish to build it up, we need to solve all the tasks facing the construction of new hotels, business centers, or shopping centers. The risks and monetary flows are quite different. Therefore, cinema theaters have started opening their doors in shopping and leisure centers. But, expansion in this field slowed down quite sharply in comparison with the pre-crisis times, when construction was booming. It is clear that we cannot sit around and wait for greater growth and development. Three years ago, we launched the KINO CITY project, which is aimed at developing and modernizing film screenings as quickly as possible in middle- and small-sized cities. And, of course, this business plan should at least bring in minimal profits.
RJ: Have you made any research studies related to demands from such cities for cinema theaters?
Pichugin: We have analyzed the situation in more than one thousand cities, estimated the paying ability of local residents, the probable demand, and have tried to imagine what the future spectator would be like. We have also selected 253 platforms, which might be profitable. This will enable us to double the Russian film market in a short period of time, while allowing operating film networks to develop naturally.
RJ: Short timeframes? How many years would that be?
Pichgin: We are counting on a five-year period. We have designed several projects with new construction materials and technologies. We reconstruct or renovate old buildings. Our cinema theaters will be equipped with digital projections; we plan to create a uniform information field.
RJ: Does this mean that there will be no more cans filled with film reels? Will films be transmitted to given locations through satellites?
Pichugin: Even satellites will not be needed if the city is equipped with high-speed Internet. We ran some tests on transmissions containing digital material. It is very economical; one “shot” from a satellite enables us to download all required materials and information on local servers.
RJ: Do you mean films?
Pichugin: Not only films… These theaters can provide the population with a wide range of cultural entertainment: movies, shows, cybersport competitions, Olympiads… They can also be used for lectures, conferences; it will be possible to make excursions and see the greatest treasures in the world – the Russian Museum, the Tretiakov Gallery, the Louvre… We have already tested such a version in Novosibirsk – the Center of Modern Art, which we inaugurated a year ago.
RJ: What do you show there?
Pichugin: First and foremost, films. But, there is an alternative repertoire: concerts, opera performances, theater performances, sports championships, etc. There is always a place and time in one of the center halls. But, we are speaking about a megalopolis. Now, just imagine small towns like Rzhev or Tikhin… there, such cinema theaters will become multi-profile cultural centers – Palaces of Culture – where there will be everything that is needed to enable young people to realize their full potential. There is a sponsorship project – Nepokorennye (The Unsubdued) – which has proved its efficiency as a platform and “springboard” for young artists.
RJ: You have just mentioned theater or opera performances. Does that mean that you hope to bring in certain forms of higher culture, which are basically not available in smaller towns?
Pichugin: Yes, performances from La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Bolshoi and Mariinskiy Theaters can be broadcast live or recorded. It is not easy for people living in Siberia to get to the Russian Museum or Covent Garden. Our centers will make cultural phenomena, which are mostly concentrated in large cities, much closer and more within reach for people residing in remote regions. And, I repeat, we will definitely get some feedback: talented people living in remote areas will have the opportunity to present their own art to the world.
RJ: Do you actually believe that your centers will show anything but commercial productions, like the notorious “Yaitsa Sudby” (Eggs of Fortune)? In fact, you will need a whole army of qualified, trained, and creative thinkers and masters of culture!
Pichugin: One of the challenges facing us – providing professional training for employees, who will be able to work correctly with cultural programs. We do not have enough educational institutions, which could train such specialists, and here we are speaking about a huge project covering all the RF regions. We have spent several years working out recommendations and learner’s guides. And, we have started teaching activities – at the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography, the Saint Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television, and local branches. I preside the Board of Trustees of the University of Cinema and Television; we have a program for modernizing and improving the quality of professional training courses; today, we have even reached a cooperation agreement with three American film schools. This means that the personnel are very busy preparing for the project.
RJ: You mentioned that our film industry will be stimulated to grow and develop… how do you see that happening?
Pichugin: If the number of screens doubles in our country, many domestic projects with budgets up to 10 million dollars can pay off. Nowadays, this seldom happens, and only with commercial pictures.
RJ: Nevertheless, don’t you think that there may be a danger that your cinema centers will place their bets on guaranteed profits from American action films, hypothetically speaking, rather than on our own art house films?
Pichugin: But, these centers will house many cinema theaters. Furthermore, as new technologies do not require expensive reproductions of film prints, ticket prices will be more accessible. Spectators will have a wider choice of films: a “blockbuster” may be showing in one theater, while the public may enjoy an art house picture in another theater.
RJ: How would you rate project financing?
Pichugin: The project should break even. We take out credits, but the State also gets involved in our projects, which are evaluated in terms of their social value. Our line of credit amounts to more than 9 billion rubles.
RJ: When can we expect the first cultural centers to appear?
Pichugin: At present, 153 platforms are at different stages of development; 18 sites are currently under construction, and the first will be put into service this very year.
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