Disruption will continue to weigh on the international theater system as the Russian-Ukrainian war drags on and well over half of China’s theaters are closed in the latest Covid crackdown.
Andrew Cripps, president, international theatrical distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, said Russia – which is currently being boycotted by studios – accounts for around 5% of the annual international box office on average, indexing more or less depending on the year. War “is a tragedy that happens. Over the past two years, we have all learned to live with uncertainty. Including closed cinemas around the world. It’s for a different reason, and we have to hope there’s some semblance of a solution,” he said during an appearance at CinemaCon.
“I don’t know – is it a ceasefire and a withdrawal? I don’t know at this point. Only that there are no Hollywood releases in the country. I just hope you can come to a place and a time where you can bring product back into the country,” Cripps added during a roundtable with Mary Parent, president of global production at Legendary Entertainment, and the filmmaker Denis Villenueve, who joined by video from Budapest where he is preparing Dune: part II.
Warner Bros fired The Batman of Russia in early March at the eleventh hour after the country invaded Ukraine. Cripps said piracy of this film and others is a problem in both Russia and China – where Shanghai is locked down, Beijing is on high alert and 57% of cinemas are closed.
He said Korea, one of the fastest growing international markets for two years, has also seen a significant slowdown. “People stopped going to the movies there,” he said. Japan have been solid with some homegrown successes, as have Australia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, “but we would like to see the whole world do better.”
The industry also faces shorter competition between windows and streaming. “I’m afraid cinema windows are getting shorter and shorter,” Villenueve said. “They should come back as long as possible.” Audiences “need to feel something unique, part of the conversation, part of the zeitgeist, part of the moment,” he said. “We have to go back to longer windows.”
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The panel was part of the International Filmmakers Roundtable at CinemaCon, moderated by Nancy Tartaglione, Deadline’s International Box Office Editor. Dunes producers Parent and Villenueve received awards for International Filmmakers of the Year.
The worldwide box office, including North America, hit nearly $6.7 billion this year on Sunday, up from $4.3 billion in the same period of 2021. International accounts for $5 billion , up 26%. It has grown a lot, but from a low base and the industry is still waiting for a return to pre-Covid levels.
CinemaCon, the exhibition industry confab, runs through Thursday in Las Vegas.