Hollywood movies can get pulled from theaters in other countries all the time when audiences have a problem with the material. However, cultural sensibilities have nothing to do with why American Made is being pulled in Russia. In that case, it's all about money. The issue comes down to a new 10% commission that is being added to online ticket sales through a particular online seller. The problem is the online company is owned by the same man who owns two major Russian theater chains. When Universal took issue with the ticket commission, and requested a change to their contract with the theaters, the theaters simply decided not to screen the new Tom Cruise movie. While the movie recently opened in other Russian theaters, It's missing from the two major chains Formula Kino and Cinema Park.
Of course, if the theaters owned by Russian tycoon Alexander Mamut decide to keep Universal films out of their theaters for the duration of this issue with the studio, that means future movies might also be left out entirely. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the two chains account for a little over 15% of the total number of Russian screens, so, while it's not a majority, it's a not inconsequential amount. American Made opened on over 100 fewer screens than it was planned to.
While Russia isn't the biggest nation when it comes to box office sales, the fact is that, as international ticket sales become more and more important to all film studios, these sorts of things become a much bigger deal. Universal's newest release is the Michael Fassbender mystery The Snowman, but the studio has major films planned for next year including Pacific Rim: Uprising and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Those releases would be expected to have major international appeal, and while 100 movie screens in Russia aren't going to keep the film from being profitable, over the course of a film's total theater run, the potential income loss is not inconsequential.
This is hardly the first controversy surrounding American Made, and in the grand scheme of things, it seems absolutely tame. The film came under fire for the death of some crew in a plane crash during the film's production. Also, some members of the family of American Made's main character Barry Seal have an issue with how the rights to the story were acquired.
Of course, the real question here is which side of this disagreement is in the worst position. While Universal may be losing out on some screens, the audience that really wants to see a movie will go wherever they to in order to see it, and perhaps it's the theater that is ultimately losing out by not showing the film. Whichever side ends up feeling the pinch first will probably make a deal sooner rather than later.
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