“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,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
The Motion Pictures Association followed with a statement on Monday evening.
“The Motion Picture Association stands with the international community in upholding the rule of law and condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the MPA said in a statement. “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.”
Disney is the first of the major film distributors to pause its theatrical releases in the region, which will likely cause others to follow suit. Indeed, Warner Bros. paused the release of “The Batman” in the country a few hours after Disney’s announcement.
Pixar’s animated film “Turning Red” is going straight to Disney Plus in the U.S. on March 11, but does have a theatrical release in countries where the streaming service is not available. Pausing theatrical releases is a bold move and financial risk, but Russia does not tend to be a make-it-or-break-it market in terms of the global box office. However, the country did bring in around $45 million for Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Russia began to invade Ukraine on Feb. 21, launching a full-scale invasion three days later. In response, the U.S. and many of its allies have imposed economic sanctions on the country, including the loss of a natural gas pipeline and the financing of two major Russian banks. The entertainment industry has also condemned Russia for the invasion, with Netflix declining to carry Russian propaganda channels and U.K. media regulator Ofcom investigating news programs on the Russia-backed RT channel.
Other upcoming Disney theatrical releases include “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” on May 5 and “Lightyear” on June 16.