The Batman, Ambulance, The Bad Guys, Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions. What do these Hollywood movies have in common? Studios won’t release them in Russia but have successfully secured theatrical releases for them in China, despite the CCP’s record of invasion and genocide.
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the major Hollywood studios joined the corporate bandwagon by announcing they would halt all movie releases in Russia. Some including Disney and Paramount said they would go further by pausing other forms of business in Russia, including TV distribution and content licensing.
The boycotts aren’t likely to have much of an effect on Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. Nor will they have much of an impact on the studios’ bottom line, which was likely a key part of their calculations.
Russia accounts for a small percentage of global box office revenue for most studio blockbusters. Disney-Marvel’s Black Panther made around 1 percent of its total box office in Russia, while Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home made just under 2 percent.
China has surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s largest movie box office market, while Russia comes in a distant sixth place. The upshot: Studios are sacrificing relatively little box office revenue in exchange for favorable media coverage.
Warner Bros. yanked The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, from Russian cinemas just a few days before it was set to open.
“In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film ‘The Batman’ in Russia,” the studio said. “We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy.”
But Warner Bros. scored an increasingly rare China release for the movie, debuting the superhero blockbuster on Chinese screens on March 18. The movie has bombed with Chinese moviegoers, making it the latest Hollywood casualty of China’s shift away from American movies.
Universal has landed Chinese releases for its Michael Bay thriller Ambulance and animated comedy The Bad Guys, while Sony’s Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is also slated to open in China.
None of these studios has voiced objections to China’s record of human rights atrocities and territorial invasion. In 1950, China invaded Tibet, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee and establish a government in exile. Since then, the CCP has sought to eradicate religious practice in the predominantly Buddhist nation.
China continues to make claims on Taiwan and has ramped up its belligerence toward the independent, democratic country since Joe Biden became president.
Both Disney and Universal have sunk billions of dollars into China in the form of theme parks. Disney operates parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, while Universal opened its first Universal Studios park in Beijing late last year to the estimated tune of $3.3 billion.
Comcast, which owns Universal, recently feted the CCP with glowing media coverage during NBC’s broadcast of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.