In response to the continuing invasion of Ukraine, Disney, Warner Bros., and Sony have put a stop on releasing films in Russia.
While we’re just at three studios so far, I expect that Paramount and NBCUniversal will follow. It would make zero sense for them to not take action. I’m glad to see Hollywood responding this early. It’s a different situation than how slow the response was in the 1930s. Universal founder Carl Laemmle did his part in saving as many Jews as possible. However, it was Warner Bros. who stood strong and became the first to stop releasing in Germany after Berlin branch manager Phil Kaufman got beat up in 1933. All the other studios waited it out until American films were banned. MGM ended up getting banned with the release of The Mortal Storm.
The response comes just ahead of The Batman, Turning Red, and Morbius being released. This comes right as Russia is taking a financial beating with strong economic sanctions against them. Their economy is a freefall with the banks being removed from the SWIFT system as the Russian Ruble is worth under a cent in American dollars.
Interestingly, Jeff got dunked on when he tweeted this. I have him blocked because of some of his terrible takes during the pandemic but when it comes to this, he is absolutely right. It should be more than comic book films but that just goes without saying. I’m surprised that Hollywood didn’t respond sooner but it is better later than never.
Let’s talk about sanctions. How about not releasing THE BATMAN in Russia. And all comic book flicks thereafter. It’s a limited thing, sure. Look, we know superheroes aren’t real, but perhaps they can be a small part of the solution. Dish out “consequences they have never seen.”
— Exhibitor Relations Co. (@ERCboxoffice) February 24, 2022
The Walt Disney Co. was the first to make an announcement:
“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. 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.”
Warner Bros. soon followed:
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. (via IndieWire)
Sony Pictures was the third to studio to chime in:
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 spokesperson said late Monday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly. (via Deadline)
On Tuesday morning, Paramount also announced that they were halting their releases in Russia:
“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.” (via Variety)
Universal was the last of the Big 5 studios to announce their halting of release in Russia:
“In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Universal Pictures has paused planned theatrical releases in Russia.” (via Deadline)
For more on the history surrounding the response to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, the following should provide more insight:
Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 by Thomas Doherty (Columbia University Press)
Hitler in Los Angeles by Steven J. Ross
Hollywood Hates Hitler! by Chris Yogerst
While I have not read the Doherty book yet, it’s now on my list. I’m a student of this era in Hollywood history. Not just in terms of the movies but the history that took place behind the scenes. Two years ago, I started reading biographies to get an idea of how the studio heads responded to the flu epidemic. Unfortunately, I mostly failed in this regard because most of the books did not mention it. What I found so fascinating was how Warner Bros. responded to the rise of Nazis. They could have done better in terms of actually letting the word Jewish be spoken in The Life of Emile Zola. No other studio would dare make the anti-Nazi film, Confessions of a Nazi Spy!
This era of history has been on my mind lately. It is the first major land invasion in Europe since WW2 and so it’s no surprise that I found my self thinking of the similarities. Talks between Ukraine and Russia didn’t really accomplish anything. I stand in solidarity with Ukraine.