Disney, Warner Bros, other Hollywood studios pause theatrical releases in Russia

Key Points
  • The Walt Disney Company, Sony and Warner Bros. have halted future theatrical film releases in Russia following the country's attack on Ukraine.
  • This includes "Turning Red," "The Batman" and "Morbius."
  • Paramount Pictures followed suit on Tuesday, withholding "The Lost City" and "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" from the Russian market.

In this article

Still from Pixar's "Turning Red."

Hollywood studios are halting theatrical film releases in Russia following the country's attack on Ukraine.

The Walt Disney Company was the first major Hollywood studio to take a hard stance against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, announcing Monday that it was pausing all film debuts in the country, including the new Pixar film "Turning Red."

Also on Monday, Warner Bros. and Sony announced they would not release films in the country. Paramount Pictures and Universal followed suit on Tuesday.

"We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation," Disney said in a statement Monday. "In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crises, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees."

Warner Bros. said it was pausing the release of "The Batman," which was slated for release this week. And Sony said it is postponing all of its planned theatrical releases in the region, including the upcoming "Morbius."

Paramount's "The Lost City" and "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" will also be withheld from the Russian market.

While ticket sales in Russia are not as significant as those drummed up in China, it is still a prominent market for Hollywood studios. On average, the Russian box office accounts for around 3% of all global ticket sales, according to data from Comscore.

"Russia has, at times, been a very relevant piece of the international box office picture," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. "But the humanitarian crisis resulting from current developments is emerging as a clear consideration for Hollywood distributors in such a challenging and tragic geopolitical environment."

"It's yet another unprecedented situation for industry leadership to face with no certain road map or blueprint to follow," he said.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home," a co-production with Sony, has tallied more than $50 million in the country.

"The Motion Picture Association stands with the international community in upholding the rule of law and condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine," the Motion Picture Association said in a statement Monday. "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."

These studios' decisions to forego releases in Russia comes amid a wave of other boycotts from the entertainment industry.

Streaming giant Netflix said it will not comply with Russian rules to carry news channels amid the escalating Russian invasion in Ukraine.

"Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service," a Netflix spokesperson told CNBC on Monday. The decision comes as a wave of Russian state-backed news broadcasts spread Russian propaganda justifying the war Moscow started in Ukraine last week.

Sports organizations and professional athletes are also hitting Russia with their own kinds of sanctions. Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) joined the Union of European Football Associations to announce it would bar Russian teams from events, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, until further notice.

The National Hockey League, which has more than two dozen Russian-born hockey players, has suspended agreements with Russian companies and the International Olympic Committee also recommended banning Russian teams from competitions for violating the "Olympic Truce."

Correction: This article was updated to reflect the correct spelling of "Morbius."

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

Sanctions make Russia very vulnerable, says former chief economist of the IMF
Sanctions make Russia very vulnerable, says former chief economist of the IMF