Russian film studio hopes to take on Hollywood after £300m investment

Home of Soviet cinema Mosfilm gets new lease of life thanks to a former Putin deputy. The Moscow Times reports

Anastasia Bazenkova for The Moscow Times, part of the New East network

Russia’s biggest film studio and home of its greatest movies, Mosfilm, has secured a £300m investment aimed at restoring its glory days after near collapse in the 1990s.

Amid a drive to boost Russia’s cultural output and offer an alternative to the Hollywood films that dominate the country’s box office, the government said earlier this month it had approved a private-sector investment in Mosfilm that will include building two studios, a costume storehouse, a cinema and a concert hall.

The backer, Altera Park, is a subsidiary of Altera Capital, a finance group headed by Vladimir Putin’s former deputy chief of staff, Kirill Androsov.

The total cost of the development, due to be completed in 2018, would be over half a billion US dollars (£300m), Androvsov told the Russian website Good To Know.

The Russian state has become increasingly interested in the film industry in recent years. In 2014, the culture minister called for a cap on foreign movies, and in March his ministry released a list of movie themes which it would support. These included family values, military glory and “Crimea and Ukraine in the 1,000 year history of the Russian state”. It’s also a big business – Stalingrad, a war film, earned over $50m worldwide last year.

Many of Mosfilm’s recent productions have been been in line with the new patriotic turn. The Dark Story, based on Chekov’s classic play The Cherry Orchard and patriotic blockbusters like 2012’s White Tiger, about a tank commander in the second world war, and Road To Berlin, released this year to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over the Nazis.


Mosfilm was formed in 1920 when two film studios merged. It is famous for producing such Oscar-winning Soviet classics as Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears and War and Peace. Many of the greats of Soviet cinema were filmed here, including Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Like all Soviet studios, Mosfilm was funded by the state. When the flow of cash stopped abruptly with the collapse of communism in 1991, the studio’s output fell from 80 films a year to one or two .

“There was a period in the 1990s when Mosfilm produced no movies at all,” said deputy director, Vladimir Ryasov.

When Russian filmmaker Karen Shakhnazarov became head of the studio in 1998, he made modernisation his priority. The financial crisis hit the studio hard – in 2008, more than 20 of its 89 films in production were cancelled.

Shakhnazarov also pushed for new infrastructure, and asked Putin two years ago to find an investor for the studio, Good To Know reports.

Movie theatre

“Mosfilm is the flagship of the Russian film industry. This investment will affect the whole sector, which is now in a rather difficult situation,” said Georgy Shabanov, the head of All Media Company, a distribution and production company.

The new movie theatre will screen films by Russian directors struggling to get their works released by local distribution chains, Ryasov said.

But others worry that the cash will be spent in vain. The value of the film production company no longer lies in its physical scale, but in the people and ideas it generates, said Oleg Berezin, head of St Petersburg film studio Nevafilm.

A massive building project is unlikely to help, he said: “The money should be invested primarily in education, not in the construction of new studios.”

A version of this article originally appeared on The Moscow Times

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