Movies, Concerts and Sports Give Russia Cold Shoulder

The entertainment industry is turning its back on Russia.

Hollywood studios,

Netflix Inc.,

big-ticket rock bands and sporting events are pausing or pulling their business out of Russia in response to President

Vladimir Putin’s

invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

The moves are largely symbolic—Russia isn’t among the largest markets for either live entertainment or movies—but they add to efforts by global corporations to isolate Russia economically and culturally as punishment for its military actions.

On Tuesday,

Paramount Global

PARA 5.39%

said it would delay the release of its titles “The Lost City” and “Sonic The Hedgehog 2.” Universal Pictures said it has paused all theatrical releases in Russia. The announcements follow moves by

Walt Disney Co.

, which said Monday it would delay the planned March 10 release of the Pixar animated feature “Turning Red” in Russia, and Warner Bros., which postponed this week’s Russian release of “The Batman,” expected to be one of the highest-grossing films of the year.

The Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday announced that it won’t welcome Russian delegations “nor accept the presence of anyone linked to the Russian government” at this year’s festival in May “unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people.”

Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the world’s largest concert promoter and ticketing service via Ticketmaster, will no longer put on shows or do business in Russia, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The entertainment giant is reviewing its global suppliers and vendors and will cut ties with any Russian-based firms, she said.

Russia represents a small but significant market for Western entertainment. Concert touring trade magazine Pollstar reported $26.6 million in ticket sales for 83 shows in Russia in 2019, before the pandemic brought live entertainment to a pause. That data consists mostly of Western acts, and doesn’t take into account local and regional entertainers. It also doesn’t account for the highly lucrative private parties many U.S. acts are hired to play by the Russian elite.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. The American rock band has called off a Moscow appearance in May.



Photo:

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

In movies, Russia makes up a small fraction of the world-wide cinematic box office: in 2021 films grossed a total of $601 million there, or about 2.8% of the year’s $21.4 billion global box-office gross, according to box office tracker Comscore. But Hollywood studios consistently supply Russian movie theaters with their biggest hits.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has the current top-grossing film in Russia in “Uncharted,” an action movie starring Tom Holland that has grossed nearly $10 million there over the last two weeks, said it would pause its planned theatrical releases in the country, including the Jared Leto-led superhero film “Morbius.”

Since the beginning of 2022, two of the four top-grossing movies in Russia were produced by Disney: “Nightmare Alley,” which has earned around $3.2 million in the country, and “The King’s Man,” which has grossed $5.2 million there, according to BoxOfficeMojo.

Disney has two other titles currently scheduled for release this Spring: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” slated for May 5, and “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” scheduled for May 26. The company said Monday that the pause was in response to Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis” accompanying it, and that it would make further decisions based on the evolving situation.

Netflix, the only global streaming service to have a large footprint in Russia, said it wouldn’t add Russian state TV channels to its service, despite a recent regulation requiring the company to do so.

American rock band Green Day on Sunday called off its show at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium scheduled for the end of May, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We are aware that this moment is not about stadium rock shows,” the band wrote in a post shared on Instagram. Last week indie-pop trio AJR canceled its October concert date in Moscow.

Other acts that have this week canceled scheduled shows in Russia include singer-songwriter Louis Tomlinson of the pop group One Direction, as well as rockers Iggy Pop, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yungblud and Franz Ferdinand.

In a post to Instagram Tuesday, the rock band Franz Ferdinand expressed love for Russia, saying its art and literature has inspired the band since it first played there 17 years ago. “We know you see the madness of your country’s leadership. We know you do not want war. We do not want war.”

Veteran promotor

Randy Phillips

said Russia—once considered an exotic destination—had risen in the years before the pandemic to become an essential tour stop for the European leg of major tours. And while artists may not want to disappoint their fans, their leverage is their performance—or choosing not to perform. Mr. Phillips helped bring J. Lo’s tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg in 2019.

“It’s a shame that a market that was growing has now hit a wall of their own creation,” said Mr. Phillips.

Venue development and investment firm Oak View Group, which owns, operates or contracts with more than 200 sports and concert venues in North America, said Sunday it has pledged “to not do business in or with Russia, nor will we serve Russian brands in any of our venues,” including Russian alcohol brands.

The sports world has also reacted swiftly to isolate Russia. On Monday, the International Olympic Committee recommended that all athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus be banned from international competitions, while soccer’s world governing body effectively banned the Russian men’s national team from the 2022 World Cup.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, canceled a sponsorship agreement with Russian state energy company

Gazprom

and moved this year’s Champions League final—international club soccer’s marquee event—from Saint Petersburg to the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

The National Hockey League cut business ties with Russia, a nation that produces many of the league’s top stars, and official bodies representing curling, skiing, skating, track and field and other sports have also ostracized the country in response to the invasion.

About $200,000 worth of tickets to “The Batman” have already been sold in Russia, according to Oleg Berezin, who until Sunday had been chairman of the Russian Federation’s Association of Cinema Owners.

Hollywood studios have been under pressure from activists sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause to pull their business from Russia since the invasion began. Last week, the Ukrainian Film Academy circulated an online petition calling for an international boycott of Russia by producers, distributors and film festivals.

On Sunday, Mr. Berezin, whose association has close ties to Russia’s Ministry of Culture, resigned over his opposition to the war.

In an interview, Mr. Berezin said that in his role as chairman he participates in working groups that discuss a range of issues, including tax breaks for exhibitors and government support for Russian film studios.

“I don’t want to have any conversations with the government, I don’t want to support them. My decision is the only way I have to indicate I’m against the war,” Mr. Berezin said.

Write to Robbie Whelan at [email protected] and Anne Steele at [email protected]

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Movies, Concerts and Sports Give Russia Cold Shoulder

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