Disney, Sony and Warner Bros pause film releases in Russia over Ukraine invasion | Film

Disney is pausing all theatrical releases in Russia, including the upcoming Pixar film Turning Red, citing the “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis”.

“We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation,” Disney said on Monday. “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.”

Turning Red, a family film about a girl who turns into a red panda when she is excited, had been set to premiere in Russia on 10 March.

Several major films are slated for global release soon, including the Warner Bros’ superhero film The Batman, which would have started showing on Friday in Russia. A few hours after Disney’s decision was announced, Warner Bros said: “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.”

Following Disney and Warner Bros, Sony Pictures announced it would also pause all its theatrical releases in Russia, including Morbius, which stars Jared Leto as the Marvel antihero and was set to open on 24 March.

“Given the ongoing military action in Ukraine and the resulting uncertainty and humanitarian crisis unfolding in that region, we will be pausing our planned theatrical releases in Russia, including the upcoming release of Morbius,” a Sony Pictures spokesperson said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly.”

Other Warner Bros films due to be released in Russia soon included Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore on April 14, and the animated DC League of Super-Pets on May 19.

The news comes as Netflix confirmed it would refuse to broadcast Russian state propaganda, in the face of a law that comes into effect in the country on 1 March.

The law requires streaming services with more than 100,000 daily users to carry 20 major Russian federal television channels, many of which broadcast Kremlin propaganda.

“Given the current situation we have no plans to add these to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter. Netflix declined to comment on whether the war had an impact on its expansion plans in Russia.

Over the weekend, the Ukrainian Film Academy created an online petition that called for an international boycott of Russian cinema and the Russian film industry following the invasion.

While it is not a crucial market for Hollywood releases, Russia is significant enough, accounting for $601m in box office in 2021, or about 2.8% of worldwide ticket sales, which totalled $21.4bn, according to Comscore.

Over the last decade, Disney has targeted Russian audiences with films made for the local market, Russia in December releasing with The Last Warrior: A Messenger of Darkness. The third film in a popular fantasy series, it became the ninth highest grossing local language release of all time in Russia.

The Hollywood Reporter has previously reported that multiple studio executives are wrestling with the Russia question, as the US and its European allies enact economic sanctions. “If the US and its allies want to cut off Russia from the rest of the world, then how would we go ahead and release our movies there?” one studio executive told the outlet.

Reuters contributed to this report

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo