Sony Pictures, Crunchyroll Join Hollywood’s Russian Business Boycott

Sony Pictures Entertainment has reportedly joined a growing Hollywood ban on all business ventures in Russia due to President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The studio has previously halted the theatrical release of Morbius in Russia.

In a March 11 memo to staff, chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra cited the ongoing carnage Russian troops are wreaking on Ukraine cities and civilian populations, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced or forced to flee the country.

“We stand with many businesses around the world who have now paused their business operations in Russia, and in support of the humanitarian efforts currently underway in Ukraine and the surrounding region,” Vinciquerra said.

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The executive said the ban includes planned home entertainment releases such as Spider-Man: No Way Home, any future television distribution deals. Recently acquired Crunchyroll also suspended its anime streaming service in Russia.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who have been impacted and it is our hope that a peaceful resolution can be found soon,” Vinciquerra said.

Disney, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Halt Theatrical Releases in Russia Due to Ukraine Invasion

With the Russian army’s unprovoked military invasion into democratically controlled Ukraine intensifying, The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures reportedly plan to halt releasing new theatrical releases in Russia going forward. The decision impacts the pending Pixar Animation release Turning Red, which is set to bow on the Disney+ streaming platform in the U.S., but in theaters in regions like Russia that does not yet have the SVOD service.

The studios’ Feb. 28 action follows economic sanctions imposed by Western countries, companies and the European Union in response to the escalating global crisis after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine.

“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia,” Disney said in a media statement.

The company said that future business decisions would be based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, Disney said that given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, it is working with non-government partners to provide aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees.

Separately, Warner Bros. Pictures’ parent company WarnerMedia said it would halt releasing this weekend’s The Batman in Russian theaters.

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“In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film The Batman in Russia,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy.”

Sony Pictures joined the growing Hollywood bandwagon announcing that pending release Morbius would not be released in Russian theaters. The decision has impact considering that the studio’s previous release, Spider-Man: No Way Home, generated a reported $45 million at the Russian box office.

“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,” Sony said in a media statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly.”

Over the weekend, Google-owned YouTube and Facebook announced they would block Russian state media outlet RT and other pro-Russian channels from their platforms. Netflix said it would skip streaming 20 free-to-air channels despite Russian regulator Roskomnadzor mandating that any foreign service with more than 100,000 subscribers do so.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” Netflix said in a statement.

Disney CFO Takes High Road in ‘Mulan’ Film Credits Controversy

In the highly partisan political landscape, a growing controversy has emerged regarding locations and local authorities in China where some of Disney’s live-action Mulan was filmed.

With the $200 million budget movie set to open in Chinese theaters, in addition to the current Premier Access on Disney+ in the U.S. and other territories, human-rights activists have raised questions about Disney’s cooperation with local authorities in China’s Xinjiang region, where allegations of abuse and re-education internments against ethnic Muslim Uighur minorities originate.

In response, there have been growing calls on social media to boycott Mulan over the issues.

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Mulan is a patriot but she shouldn’t be placed in Xinjiang because patriotism has been forbidden in Xinjiang,” Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur activist, wrote in a post. “In China, patriotism is loving the Chinese Communist Party.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) weighed in on the matter, accusing Disney of “whitewashing genocide” by allegedly cooperating with Chinese police working at the camps.

“Your decision to put profit over principle, to not just ignore the CCP’s genocide and other atrocities, but to aid and abet them, is an affront to American values,” Hawley wrote in Sept. 9 letter to Disney.

Liu Yifei, the lead actress in Mulan, added fuel to the controversy when she tweeted support for police crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Speaking Sept. 10 on the Bank of America Securities Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said she had no interest in discussing international politics. Instead, the executive reiterated that production on Mulan involved numerous international locations — most notably in New Zealand.

“The real facts of Mulan [are] that it was primarily shot in — almost the entirety in New Zealand. And in an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this historical period piece drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China,” McCarthy said.

The CFO said it is standard procedure that when filming in China or any foreign country, that permits must be obtained. And in China, that permission comes from the central government in Beijing. McCarthy added that it is also common practice in Hollywood to acknowledge the appropriate agencies, authorities and governments in a movie’s credits.

For Mulan, Disney reportedly thanks eight government entities in Xinjiang, including security in the city of Turpan, where the government allegedly operates the camps. Disney also credits the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee, an agency that reportedly produces state propaganda.

McCarthy said it is common practice in movies to also acknowledge  national and local governments, which for Mulan included both China as well as New Zealand.

“I would just leave it at that,” she said. “But that’s generated a lot of issues for us.”