'Paddington 2' Release Pushed Back in Russia

Paddington 2 International Trailer Still - H 2017

The culture ministry in 2016 got the right to change dates to help local releases compete with Hollywood fare, but had so far never used it.

Russia's culture ministry has postponed the release of Paddington 2 by two weeks to give local releases a better shot at competing with foreign releases.

The film had originally been scheduled to open in Russia on Thursday. The delay marks the first time the ministry used its power to move foreign releases, which it had gotten in 2016, by assigning dates different from distributors' original schedules. Previously, distributors voluntarily pushed their releases to avoid collisions with major homemade movies.

Similarly, it was the first time a postponement was announced just a day before the planned released date, forcing theaters to hastily change their schedules and return money to those who already purchased tickets to Paddington 2 in pre-sales.

"They probably wanted to remove potential competition for the local movie Skif [Scythian], released on the same day," a source in the Russian film industry tells The Hollywood Reporter. "And they might also want to help Dvizheniye Vverkh [Three Seconds] to gross even more."

Released on Dec. 28, the basketball drama Three Seconds has already become Russia's highest-grossing homemade movie of all time. As of Jan. 14, it had grossed 1.9 billion rubles, or $33.5 million.

Scythian is a history action film, produced by local major STB.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Fox's Maze Runner: The Death Cure, slated for release Jan. 25, also could be moved to Feb. 1. On Thursday, however, the culture ministry issued the movie an exhibition license with the Jan. 25 release date.

Probably, controversy over the postponement of Paddington 2's release pushed the agency to revise its plans.

On Thursday, the association of Russian film theater owners issued a statement, slamming the ministry for pushing the Paddington 2 release. "The association considers the decision to be an unacceptable manifestation of direct and rude interference with operations of movie theaters as commercial enterprises," it read.

Alexander Rodnyansky, producer of Andrei Zvyagintsev's Loveless, shortlisted for the foreign language Oscar, also criticized the move. "When state officials mix up protectionism and voluntarism, it is a disaster," he wrote in a column for Snob magazine.