Friday, January 8, 2010

Sa aparam "Patria"?

Over the last week there has been a lot of comment in the Moldovan blogosphere about the activity of the Patria cinema in the centre of Chisinau, and in particular their practice of running Hollywood films overdubbed in Russian, without subtitles.

I empathise with the views expressed:

  1. It is shameful that the national language isn't used at all by Patria
  2. Subtitles would be a significant help for those trying to learn the original language of the film
  3. The overdubbing can be clumsy - e.g. delicate young women being voiced by a gruff middle-aged male
That said, Patria is a business, and their business model works well for them.  While they obviously need to conform to Moldova's language laws, they are not subject to the more rigorous constaints that a state institution would be.

What we have are problems of both supply and demand.  There is little (or no?) supply of cinema films with Romanian subtitles, and there is sufficient demand for films overdubbed in Russian to make Patria's business model work.  Some of that demand may of course be artificial in the sense that people go to Patria because they don't have other options.

The solution is obvious.  Create other options.  At the simplest level this could be a small, art-house cinema showing quality films in original languages with Romanian subtitles.

The business plan could be fairly simple, with relatively low initial capital investment.  You would need to hire a hall, set it up with seating and a screen.  You would need to buy or hire some projection equipment (but not necessarily the latest stuff).  You would need to contract with the copyright holders of the films you want to show and in some cases arrange the subtitling.  You would need to purchase a popcorn maker.  You would need to hire an usher, a projectionist and someone to sell the popcorn.  Oh, and by the way, you'll need to make a profit.

I look forward to receiving your business plans at!


  1. I was in Moldova 2006-2007, and I was told that there had actually been one (good) cinema like you describe it, located at Pusjkin street (I might be wrong about that).

    I don't know why they failed, if it was political or business failure.

    Something to look into?

  2. Today the Minister of Culture- Focsa promised that the government will compel cinemas to screen films with Romanian subtitles by this summer.

    I find this to be welcome news. Although the liberal side of me instinctively cringes when the state sets such regulations of private enterprises, I believe this move to be justified for two reasons:

    1) I believe this matter falls under the purview of the language laws and I accept the idea that the local culture should be protected and

    2) the market is already distorted: there is clearly demand for movies in Romanian, however Patria enjoys a stifling monopoly on Moldovan cinema and its owner (an ethnic Russian) is refusing (publicly) to screen movies with Romanian subtitles practically on chauvinist grounds.

    Under these circumstances the state has not only the right, but the obligation to "meddle."