Paramount is the latest Hollywood studio to pull its upcoming movies, the Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum-Brad Pitt romantic comedy adventure The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, from Russia as the Ukraine invasion continues.
“As we witness the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, we have decided to pause the theatrical release of our upcoming films in Russia, including The Lost City, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. We stand by all those impacted by the humanitarian crisis across Ukraine, Russia, and our international markets and will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds,” Paramount announced this AM in a statement.
Yesterday, Disney set the table in how the major studios would approach a lucrative box office territory that has opted to go to war with an independent nation: Not with words, but with actions. Disney decided to pause the theatrical release of Pixar’s Turning Red in Russia. This prompted Warner Bros. to change their minds about opening The Batman behind the Iron Curtain on March 3rd, and Sony followed pausing their upcoming theatrical releases in the country including Marvel’s Morbius.
The first Sonic the Hedgehog raked in close to $11M in Russia. Bullock’s Ocean’s Eight did $6.3M. Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home cleared close to $45M. Russia is a marketplace that embraced the technological innovations of exhibition and turned into a cash cow for Hollywood. The question is how long Hollywood’s boycott goes on. Will Disney literally block the theatrical release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness from the country?
The studios really stepped up and did something important and this economic sanctions will cost them, which is very noble. Meanwhile, the MPA, which many of the studios were looking to in regards to advice put out a benign statement last night: “The Motion Picture Association stands with the international community in upholding the rule of law and condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 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. We will continue to monitor the situation, working closely with our members and partners throughout the global creative sector.” The MPA would argue that it’s the studios who determine how they’ll conduct their business individually with different countries, not the trade org which over the years has paved ways for the numbers of U.S. movies getting released in China.
Essentially all the big tentpoles coming out in March and April won’t hit Russia. The last studio to pause theatrical releases in Russia is Universal. They have upcoming the Michael Bay action movie Ambulance on April 8.