How a Novosibirsk citizen opened the first modern cinemas in the city

In early February, Galym Sainov, a man whose name is associated with an entire era in the history of film distribution in Novosibirsk, died.

We have already talked about what Soviet cinema was like in Novosibirsk in the 70s and 80s. This time, it will focus on what happened to the local film distribution in the last 30 years.

And the main character here will be the ArtSines Cinema Distribution (ASSD) company, created by Galym and Lyubov Sainov.

90s: crazed viewers watch “Empire of Passion”

New time has brought new films. So much so that today it is already difficult to imagine. In the 90s, in the Mayakovsky cinema, on a huge screen, stunned viewers watched “Empire of Passion” – a Japanese film that today, even in online cinemas, is not available everywhere because of the sex scenes shown with pornographic meticulousness. Heavy, “art house”, as they would say now, the film “The Legend of Narayama” (about the life of a Japanese village) was a huge success (for the same reason – because of the sex scenes).

Domestic cinema of that time was hopelessly unprofitable. Nikita Mikhalkov’s colorful pseudo-historical drama The Barber of Siberia, which cost an insane $ 35 million for that time, was able to raise a little more than $ 10 million in cinemas (including international distribution). And this despite the fact that the Mayakovsky and Pobeda halls ”, Where he was shown, were, in principle, complete.

How a housing cooperative started making films, and Galym became a film distributor

Case brought the Sainovs down to cinema. Galym came to work at MZHK “Electron” just to acquire his own apartment. Housing cooperatives back in the USSR were the prototype of today’s construction companies (with the only difference that the purpose of their activity was not profit, but the construction of houses for members of the cooperative). These were quite powerful structures at that time – with their own production, equipment and significant financial resources. And when entrepreneurship flourished in the country, it is not surprising that these structures also began to show activity in areas far from construction. For “Electron” it turned out to be … film production.

MZhK allocated a gigantic sum of one and a half million dollars by the then Novosibirsk standards for the filming of two films at once – “The Family Man” (starring Lyubov Polishchuk and Anna Samokhina) and “Red Island” (based on the works of Mikhail Bulgakov with Alexander Feklistov, Semyon Farada and Tatiana Vasilyeva). The pictures were shot at the facilities of the Belarusfilm studio. But there were problems with the rental.

In addition to the general confusion and a decline in living standards (many were not up to cinema), the domestic film industry has a new problem – competition from foreign cinema. In the USSR, films from France, the USA, etc., of course, were also shown, but there were relatively few of them, the question of purchasing each was almost a political step. With the advent of capitalism, a real stream of foreign films poured into the market. Which, moreover, were offered to Russian film distribution on much more favorable terms. If the shooting of a Russian film then cost no less than half a million dollars, then it was possible to buy foreign films for distribution for a ridiculous 15-20 thousand dollars. And this is not counting the fact that, in principle, the world cinema had something to offer.

In general, with the rental of “Semyanin” and “Red Island” things went wrong, and the Sainovs had to decide what to do next. You could spit and do something else (having said goodbye to the hope of getting an apartment after all). Or come up with some other way to achieve the goal. So, in 1992 in Novosibirsk there was a company with the name-centaur “ArtSigns Cinema Distribution”.

The idea was simple – to create a specialized enterprise that would buy popular foreign films and sell them in packages together with Russian cinema – cinemas. For imported films, I had to independently make translation, voice acting, and print copies. Fortunately, there were initially conditions for all this in Novosibirsk.

However, the invented scheme did not work for long. Some cinemas, deprived of external support, turned out to be unprofitable and began to close one by one. Somewhere a nightclub appeared, somewhere a shopping center. But the most popular direction of transformation in Novosibirsk was the transformation of a cinema into a temple. There was no one to sell films.

How the first multiplexes appeared in Novosibirsk

The turning point happened after, in early 1998, “Titanic” was able to collect in Russia, with its completely ruined film distribution, an absolutely unthinkable amount at that time of more than five million dollars. For comparison, the iconic “Brother”, released in the summer of 1997, was filmed for only 20 thousand dollars and was able to make a profit only after the start of sales of videotapes. It became clear that cinema can be profitable in Russia. The smallest thing is missing – cinemas where spectators could come.

And the Sainovs began, in fact, to rebuild the film distribution system, first in Novosibirsk, and then in neighboring cities. In 2000, they rented five cinemas (in the Aurora and Pioneer cinemas, in the Officers’ House and the Chkalov and Stroitel Culture Houses). These venues became the first modern cinemas in the city – with comfortable seating, modern equipment and a constant stream of new products.

It quickly became clear that only a multiplex cinema can work effectively. Firstly, not every film is capable of gathering a large auditorium for 500-600 seats in principle. However, if you divide this space into three smaller rooms and put different films in them, then it is quite possible to get a fairly high occupancy rate at each of them. The more halls, the more sales of popcorn and drinks (and this is a significant source of income for the cinema), because in the hall there will always be some people waiting for their show. Not to mention the fact that a spectator who has come to the cinema at random will always be able to choose a film that will start in 15–20 minutes.

The first (albeit very modest) multiplex in Novosibirsk appeared in 2004 in the reconstructed Pioner cinema. There were only three halls, but this atmosphere of a place has already appeared, where something is constantly happening, which does not freeze as soon as the next film is shown in the hall. However, Pioneer was a kind of transitional stage. It was a non-standard cinema with some kind of homemade entertainment inside, where everything revolved around the theme of space.

The first multiplex in the Sainovs shopping center was opened a year later – it appeared in the Continent shopping center on Gusinobrodskoye highway. Today it serves only residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. And then spectators came there even from the center, because there was simply no Aura, Royal Park, or Siberian Mall. Even Pobeda took its modern form later.

The most ambitious project of the Sainovs was a huge cinema complex in the “Continent” on Trolleynaya, which began operating in 2008. In addition to the 12-screen cinema, an ice bar, an ice rink and an absolutely unprecedented thing – the TransForce interactive entertainment hall – appeared. The latter was intended both for children’s educational and entertainment programs, and for holding some kind of non-standard conferences, presentations, etc.

Muscovites are coming

By the end of the 2000s, ASSD was not just a notable company in Siberia, but one of the ten largest film distribution companies in Russia. The company began territorial expansion – its cinemas opened in Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk and planned to enter Omsk. The Sainovs had a lot of projects, sometimes quite unusual. For example, the company was going to open a transforming cinema in Akademgorodok, where it was possible to move the seats of the auditorium, freeing it up for a disco or some other event that required open space. But then the inevitable happened – film distribution giants from the capitals entered the Siberian market.

The Novosibirsk company suffered its first serious losses during the 2008-2009 crisis. The ruble exchange rate collapsed, and almost all equipment for numerous projects of the ASSD was imported, bought on credit. So, the multiplexes in Continents, which had barely begun to operate, had to sell the chains from St. Petersburg to Kronverk Cinema in 2009. In fact, it was not even a sale in the full sense of the word – the Alemar bank that lent to ASD simply took the pledged property and found a new owner for it.

In Novosibirsk, the time has come for large shopping and entertainment complexes, which were no longer built on the periphery (like “Continent”), but in the center, not far from the metro. These were projects of capital and even foreign companies that wanted to see large federal brands as tenants. This was how the first blow was dealt to the future of the Sainovs’ business. Even then it became clear that the Novosibirsk company would have to fight against competitors in obviously unequal conditions.

New multiplexes appeared in Royal Park, Aura, Siberian Mall and Novosibirsk Gallery, which were more conveniently located for viewers. Not to mention the fact that their appearance has increased the number of seats in cinemas several times. And the number of spectators during this time did not significantly increase.

Loss after loss

Having lost the most profitable sites, ASSD began to experience financial difficulties, which only exacerbated the situation. The audience began to complain about the aging chairs (which themselves, in general, were rendered unusable), the lack of some of the new products. And in general, all other things being equal, Novosibirsk people preferred a cinema in a large shopping and entertainment center, where you could go shopping and sit in a cafe (or on a food court). The cinemas that remained with the company could not offer any of this.

In the spring of 2017, the mayor’s office took the Pioneer away from the ASSD (now it is being rebuilt in order to transfer the building to the Afanasyev Theater). It was a hard blow – the downtown cinema remained an important asset for the company. In October 2020, due to the inability to pay rent, the largest, a seven-screen cinema of the Seventh Heaven Company (in the Kalina shopping center), was closed.

The company now has four cinemas, three of which are single-screen. The only current multiplex “Golden Cinema” ASSD was opened on the periphery – in the shopping and entertainment center “Golden Park” after the company was evicted from the “Pioneer”. In addition to him, the now only Lyubov Sainova in Novosibirsk has only Aurora with Horizon and Orion in Berdsk. And, probably, the only correct way to honor the memory of Galym Sainov is to buy a ticket to one of them. He certainly deserved it.

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