Hollywood studios pause theatrical releases in Russia amid invasion


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Ariana Purisic

Hollywood production studios are pausing film releases in Russia, joining calls by the Ukrainian Film Academy to internationally boycott Russian cinema following the country’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The European film industry, the Cannes and Venice film festivals unanimously declared that they would cut all ties to Kremlin associates. Hollywood studios have been compelled to act in similar ways.

The Walt Disney Company Co. is not releasing any of its theatrical films in Russia, including the Pixar animated film “Turning Red.” Other films have been halted, such as Marvel Entertainment, LLC’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Pixar’s “Lightyear” which were set to release in the coming months, according to CNN.

Disney announced that it is working with nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians.

Within a few hours of Disney’s announcement, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. made a similar statement. “In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film The Batman in Russia. We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy,” the compay said.

Warner Bros. put holds on other films that were set to premiere like “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” on April 14 and the animated DC “League of Super-Pets” on May 19.

Additionally, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. also announced that it will delay “Morbius,” a film starring Jared Leto as a Marvel antihero which was set to open on March 24.

This wave of actions taken by production studios comes after Netflix, Inc., and other platforms were deciding how to confront Russian propaganda.

Netflix was the first company, alongside major tech giants, to act upon Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. Netflix confirmed that it has refused carrying Russian state TV channels on its streaming service, in violation of a new law that is set to take effect in the country March 1.

The law states that streaming services with more than 100,000 daily users must broadcast 20 major Russian federal television channels, most of which are filled with pro-Putin propaganda.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson said to The Hollywood Reporter. However, Netflix declined to discuss whether the war has an impact on its expansion plans in Russia.

Hollywood’s boycott of Russian cinema is consistent with the online petition started by the Ukranian Film Academy.

The academy wrote that while world governments have implemented economic sanctions over Russia’s invasion, they continue to benefit from cultural activity.

In the Academy’s letter, they implore producers “to terminate any business with business entities of the Russian Federation and not to transfer intellectual property rights to any films to the territory of the Russian Federation.”

“We urge you to terminate all contracts with them,” the letter continued.  “Remember that the business that will use your films pays taxes to the Russian budget, which finances the army that violated the borders of an independent state, and buys missiles to bomb the civilian population of Europe.”

The CEO of Ukrainian film distributor Kinolife told NPR that “more than 70% of the films shown in Russia are Hollywood movies.” Last year, the movie “Spiderman: No Way Home” garnered 10 million Russian theatergoers.

Thus, Hollywood studios are playing a major financial role in deterring Russia’s military forces against Ukraine.