MOSCOW (Reuters) – About 140 cinemas in Russia will miss out on scheduled modernisations after the government moved nearly 1.2 billion roubles ($16.5 million) earmarked for culture spending this year to its reserve fund as it tackles COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced the government to adjust spending goals in 13 key areas, known as the national projects, first announced by President Vladimir Putin during his bid for re-election in 2018. The projects are intended to spur economic growth.
“Funds amounting to 1.17 billion roubles from the ‘Culture’ national project for 2020 were transferred to the (government’s) reserve fund,” the TASS news agency quoted Deputy Culture Minister Olga Yarilova as saying on Wednesday.
She said 200 cinemas were to have been modernised this year but only 60 of the development plans would go ahead under the scheme, and plans to digitise materials from the state film fund would also be affected.
The plan had been by 2024 to equip 1,200 cinemas with professional equipment in settlements with up to 500,000 inhabitants.
Artem Ryzhkov, programme director of a short film festival in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, described the move as very sad, saying a modern cinema can transform a city.
“It is a great programme,” he said. “I really hope this is temporary and that next year everything will come back.”
Under the original spending plan, Russia had intended to spend 113.5 billion roubles on culture between 2019 and 2024.
The government’s reserve fund is separate from its National Wealth Fund and is used for emergency spending needs.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow, Editing by Katya Golubkova and Timothy Heritage)