I'm thinking of really major films that came from Hollywood, like Star Wars, Back to the Future, Planet of the Apes, etc.

Were these allowed to be shown in the USSR? Did they have to wait for Glasnost? How were tickets priced and how were profits shared among the USSR and Hollywood?

4 Answers 4


Some films were officially licensed and were quite popular, such as Sun Valley Serenade, Some Like It Hot, The Sandpit Generals etc.

You might take a look at the chart here. Where there's only year, that's a Soviet film; foreign and joint-production films are marked with countries. As you can see, there are a few entries marked with США (USA). If you look by year, you'll find that it was roughly one American film per two years.

Of course, it was supposed that only ideologically safe films 'of high artistic value' could make it to the big screen. But it is said that personal tastes of the highest bosses of the Party and the State often affected the choice.

As to prices, the ticket cost something on the scale of 20 or 30 kopecks. For premieres the price might be higher, such as 50 kopecks. Films for children (including cartoons) were fixed at 10 kopecks.

The situation changed in late 1980s, when videocassette recorders became widely available and the state permitted some small business activity (the so-called cooperatives). Video salons became quite popular with their pirate VHS stuff, mostly action films, sometimes erotics or even outright porn. I suppose all these cassettes were technically contraband, but at that time the state preferred to turn a blind eye to it and just collect taxes (only porn was of course illegal and one might end up in jail for displaying it).

As to prices, I remember myself paying 1 ruble to see Jaws. That was quite a lot, enough to cover an adult's daily expenses (such as transportation, lunch, tobacco, newspapers etc.).

  • 2
    I'm fascinated that the most-watched movie in the history of the USSR was a Mexican film that is almost entirely unknown in the USA. Is it better-known in the rest of Europe? Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 16:30
  • I suppose Yesenia answered the craving for a lachrymose melodrama, especially among the female audience. I remember my grandmother enjoyed weeping over it very much. I think there was nothing else of this kind until Esclava Isaura started on the Soviet TV in 1988.
    – ach
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 17:00

Soviet Union was really special market for American movies.

First of all, many movies took their way into SU many years after international release. For example, "West Side Story" (1961) was shown in SU in 1979. I guess that's because old movies were sold with discount.

Next, some movies were particularly banned until Perestroika (say, mentioned above "Star Wars", or "Rambo" etc.).

Next, some movies got their popularity in SU only - for example, "The Sandpit Generals" (1971) could be referred as "Major Hollywood film" from Soviet POV.

So a significant part of "classic" foreign films from the 60s and the 70s was shown in Soviet Union, but some "ideologically inappropriate" ones had to wait until Perestroika. While the rest (such as "Back to the Future") got into SU as pirate VHS.


"Allowed" is not an exact term here. Nothing was "allowed" in Soviet Union. Everything was decided by higher authorities, including which movies to show. A lot of foreign films were purchased by the Soviet Union and shown in movie theaters. (In fact much more than in the US). After the WWII many German films were obtained as a part of the war reparations and they were shown in the movie theaters. Later they purchased movies from all countries (not only socialist ones), translated them into Russian and showed in the movie theaters. They were very popular. I would say more popular that Soviet movies (I am speaking of 1960s-1970s). I remember American "Magnificent Seven", "Oklahoma as it is", French "Fantomas", a lot of French and Italian comedies, all principal movies of Fellini, Antonioni, Bergmann and Kurosawa and many others which I have seen in my youth. But there was strict selection, of course. Those movies which were considered "politically incorrect" were not shown. Some movies were shown to more narrow audiences (their circulation was restricted, but not completely prohibited). With the spread of video recorders almost everything became available, but not in movie theaters, only for private screening. For example, I could see "Caligula" and "Star wars" on video. They were not shown in the theaters.

  • Paradoxically, they bought movies from Socialist countries very rarely, more rarely than from Capitalist countries.
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 10:38
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    @Anixx: I do not have any statistics, but I remember many Chechoslovakian , Polish, Hungarian and especially Romainan films.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 12:30

USSR authorities authorized showing "Death of a Salesman" in order to show people how Americans are suffering. BUT USSR audience were surprised how come someone owning a house, a fridge, TV, nice furniture and a car is suffering! Recently, I met a guy from Budapest who told me that one of his childhood dreams was tasting a banana.

  • 2
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 12:56
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    @MarkC.Wallace There's nothing wrong with personal anecdotes, as far as I'm concerned. More details would be good, tho, especially the year. What year(s) was Death of a Salesman shown publicly in the USSR? What year did the author, Xorianto, see it? Without knowing the year we can only guess, and there's a big difference between the glasnost and pre-glasnost USSR.
    – DrZ214
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:04
  • The last sentence is a personal anecdotes; the rest is merely assertions.
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:24

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