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Disney and other studios halt release of films in Russia

March 1, 2022

"The Batman" and "Turning Red" won't hit Russian cinemas just yet. Entertainment giants join other multi-national companies in distancing themselves from Russia.

Robert Pattinson as batman looking at Zoe Kravitz on a rooftop.
"The Batman" will not be released as planned in RussiaImage: Jonathan Olley/DC Comics /Warner Bors/dpa/picture alliance

Despite Russia's lucrative Hollywood movie market, Warner Brothers, Disney and Sony Pictures are suspending the release of their films in the country after Moscow's assault on Ukraine, the companies announced in statements on Monday.

The entertainment companies follow the example of other major multi-national firms choosing to pull out of Russia since President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in the early hours of February 24.

Disney was the first to announce it would be pausing its releases in Russian theaters. "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 in a statement. "We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation," the US entertainment giant added. "Turning Red," a film about a girl who transforms into a red panda, was scheduled to be released on March 10.

A portrait of Colin Farrell with another image of him in costume as Penguin.
Colin Farrell plays Penguin (r) in the new film "The Batman," which will not be released in Russian cinemas this week

Warner Bros. followed suit, announcing on Monday that the release of its upcoming film "The Batman" is being paused "in light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine," according to a WarnerMedia spokesperson. It was set to open on March 3 in Russia. Sony Pictures also announced Monday that it is suspending the Russian release of Jared Leto's "Morbius."

Russia is one of the world's top grossing box offices for Hollywood releases. Sony's "Spider-Man: No Way Home" earned more than $44.5 million (€39.8 million) since opening in December, according to "The Hollywood Reporter."

Yet the decision to halt the releases in Russia's lucrative market seems to have been made at the final hour — as of Sunday evening, Warner Bros. was still planning to go ahead with its March 3 release of "The Batman." However, when Disney made the first announcement on Monday afternoon, competitors Warner Bros and Sony soon followed its example.

The multi-national entertainment giants are not the first major companies to distance themselves from Russia in the past few days. Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft took steps on Monday to limit the dissemination of information from news outlets affiliated with the Russian government. British oil companies BP and Shell have announced that they are dumping their shares in joint projects with Russian oil groups.

sh/als (AFP, Reuters)