October 13, 2017 / 3:00 PM / 4 days ago

Russia cinema chain, changing mind, will run film about tsar's affair

Russian film director Alexei Uchitel reacts before the press screening of the movie "Matilda" in Moscow, Russia October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s largest cinema chain said on Friday it had changed its mind and would now run the film “Matilda” despite threats from religious conservatives slamming the film as blasphemous.

It said it now believed cinema-goers would be safe after statements by law enforcement officials.

“Matilda”, to be released in late October, tells the tale of a late-19th century romance between Nicholas II, before he became Russia’s tsar, and half-Polish dancer Matilda Kshesinskaya.

Long before its premiere, the film drew ire from Russian nationalists and religious conservatives who say it besmirches the memory of the tsar who was executed by Bolsheviks in 1918 and is revered by many of Russia’s Christian Orthodox believers.

The Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took power 100 years ago this month.

Russian film director Alexei Uchitel speaks during a news conference, dedicated to the press screening of the movie "Matilda" in Moscow, Russia October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

“We are grateful to law-enforcement bodies and special services for all they’ve done in the past month for us to be assured of our spectators’ safety,” Roman Linin, the head of the Cinema Park and Formula Kino cinema chain, said in a statement.

Deciding last month not to run “Matilda”, Linin said: “We simply cannot expose our numerous visitors to danger.”

Slideshow (2 Images)

The film’s four foreign actors, including the two lead stars in the movie, have declined to travel to Russia for the premiere because they fear for their safety.

Film director Alexei Uchitel told reporters earlier this week that police had set a letter to cinemas saying law enforcers “will take serious security measures”.

But in a move clearly aimed at intimidation, there have been arson attempts at a cinema in the city of Yekaterinburg, a building in St Petersburg that houses Uchitel’s studio and to two cars parked outside the office of Uchitel’s lawyer..

The tsar and his family were executed in Yekaterinburg.

writing by Denis Pinchuk; additional reporting by Olga Sichkar; editing by Dmitry Solovyov/Jeremy Gaunt

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