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Across Hollywood, studio executives are debating whether to pull their upcoming releases from Russia amid that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russia box office has for years been fertile ground for Hollywood event pics, including current Sony blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has earned $44.5 million there to date.
So far, the major Hollywood studios are all declining official comment on the Ukraine invasion. The Motion Picture Association has also yet to comment.
But behind the scenes, there is plenty of discussion as to what happens if Russia doesn’t retreat. Says one studio executive: “If the U.S. 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?” Another executive adds: “How can anyone advertise their movies on state-owned media right now in Russia?”
So far, Warner Bros.’ superhero film The Batman is still scheduled to open in Russia on March 3 as part of its worldwide rollout (it opens officially in North America on March 4).
Box office sources say it could be difficult to pull a film from Russia at the eleventh hour. Over the Feb. 25-27 weekend, for example, both Joe Wright’s Cyrano and Paramount’s The Godfather: 50 Years opened in Russia, while holdovers Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile and Sony’s Uncharted stayed high up on the Russia box office chart.
Studio sources add that cinemas in Russia are privately owned, versus being controlled by Vladimir Putin’s government. However, many of the media-advertising platforms are state-owned.
Upcoming Hollywood event pics include Paramount’s Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, along with the next installments in the Fantastic Beasts and Doctor Strange franchises. Sony also has Morbius.
Hollywood studios are likely to be impacted by the decision of the European Union over the weekend to eject Russia from the global banking system SWIFT. Without SWIFT, studios may not be able to get any money back from their Russian distribution partners.
Also over the weekend, the Ukrainian Film Academy called for an international boycott of Russian cinema and the Russian film industry following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine last week.
In an online petition, the academy called on producers to stop licensing their movies and series for Russia, for international festivals to ban Russian films from their lineups, and for international producers to terminate any business dealings with Russian companies.
“We urge you to terminate all contracts with them,” the petition reads. “Remember that the business that will use your films pays taxes to the Russian budget, which finances the army that violated the borders of an independent state and buys missiles to bomb the civilian population of Europe.”
Western governments, including the U.S., European Union, the U.K. and Canada, have announced wide-ranging economic sanctions, including on Putin himself as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
There have also been cultural sanctions, with the European Broadcasting Union on Friday banning Russia from participating in its hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest, European soccer body UEFA moving the Champions League final match from St. Petersburg to Paris in protest, and racing body Formula One canceling a planned race in Russia in September.
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