Disney, Warner Bros. and other Hollywood studios are quickly pulling their films from release in Russia, citing concerns about the invasion of Ukraine.
Disney led the way on Monday, canceling the theatrical release of the animated film Turning Red. “Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia,” the studio announced, adding that Disney was working with non-governmental organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees.
Other studios soon followed suit, with Sony canceling the Spider-Man spinoff Morbius (scheduled for release on March 24), and Warner Bros. canceling The Batman. The big question now is whether Netflix will make a similar statement—a different situation from studios that prioritize theatrical markets. Netflix has so far refused to broadcast government propaganda programming in Russia, but the service is otherwise still available to Russian subscribers. (The Daily Dot has reached out to Netflix for comment.)
Just a few days ago, the idea of a “Batman sanction” was derided on social media as both frivolous and unlikely. It’s hard to imagine Vladimir Putin caring about pop-culture boycotts, after all. But these cancelations are more complicated than Hollywood brands making a PR statement in support of Ukraine. They send a message of disapproval to the Russian people. And it’s no coincidence that these studio announcements arrived on Monday, shortly after the U.S., U.K., and Europe blocked SWIFT access for major Russian banks.
Blocking SWIFT was a serious blow to the Russian economy, causing the ruble to plummet in value, and immediately impacting the lives of everyday Russians. Coupled with other economic sanctions, this created a cascade effect for international companies, encouraging them to reconsider their operations in Russia.
Basically, it’s now far less of a sacrifice for Disney and Warner Bros. to cancel these movies. Under normal circumstances, a blockbuster like The Batman could expect to bring home tens of millions of dollars from Russian markets. But with the Russian economy in chaos, that’s no longer the case.