Disney pauses theatrical film releases in Russia amid invasion of Ukraine
Walt Disney Co. is “pausing” the theatrical release of its movies in Russia amid Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, marking one of the most significant responses to the crisis yet from the movie business.
In a Monday statement, the Burbank entertainment giant cited the upcoming Pixar film “Turning Red,” which Disney is releasing in the U.S. and elsewhere in March. This makes Disney the first major movie studio to stop film releases in Russia in response to the attack.
“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar,” Disney said. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.”
The computer-animated film is going straight to streaming service Disney+ rather than to theaters in the U.S. and other countries where the streamer is available. In countries without Disney+, including Russia, the movie was planned for a theatrical release.
Disney’s decision comes as businesses move to cut ties with Russia, and as the U.S. and other nations impose sanctions amid the escalating conflict.
Rival Warner Bros. also on Monday said it would pause the Russian theatrical release of “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson, which begins its global rollout this week. Sony Pictures followed with a similar move, shelving the planned launch of the Jared Leto film “Morbius,” which is connected to the “Spider-Man” comic book universe.
The Motion Picture Assn., which represents the major film studios, issued a statement condemning Russia’s actions and voicing support for Ukraine’s film industry.
“On behalf of our member companies, who lead the film, TV and streaming industry, we express our strongest support for Ukraine’s vibrant creative community who, like all people, deserve to live and work peacefully,” the trade group said.
Hollywood celebrities have voiced support for Ukraine. Actor Sean Penn, who is in Ukraine working on a film documentary, is encouraging the U.S. to come to the rescue of the embattled country, which is fighting to preserve its democracy.
“Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost,” Penn wrote in a Twitter message Saturday.
Unlike China, where Disney and other studios do substantial business, Russia is not considered a make-or-break box office market for Hollywood blockbusters. In the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the country was the ninth largest box office territory outside the U.S. and Canada, with roughly $900 million in total box office receipts, according to the Motion Picture Assn.
Russia can be a decent box office market for U.S. blockbusters. Sony’s release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” took in about $44.6 million from Russia, according to Box Office Mojo, contributing about 2.5% of its $1.85 billion global total.
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