After a month of controversy, Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" finally opened in Chinese cinemas on Sunday, with more of a whimper than a bang.
"Django Unchained" did good but unspectacular business when it opened in Chinese movie theaters last weekend, bringing in 3.7 million yuan (roughly $601,800) in about 6,800 screenings. That put it in fifth place for the Sunday box office tally, coming in behind "Iron Man 3," "So Young" (a Chinese coming-of-age drama), "Oblivion" and "The Croods."
This isn't the first time Tarantino's Oscar-winning drama of a slave's efforts to be reunited with his wife has opened in China. But only a tiny handful of film fans were able to catch "Django Unchained" on April 11 before the movie was pulled from Chinese theaters hours after it debuted, with several screenings stopped in progress. China's state censor board, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, originally approved the film without cuts under the condition that Tarantino use digital technology to tone down the color and the spray of the blood in several violent scenes. However, SARTF reportedly didn’t catch some brief scenes of nudity in the picture; when they were brought to SARFT's attention, "Django"'s release was immediately cancelled, officially due to "technology problems."
The new Chinese edition of "Django Unchained" is three minutes shorter than its American counterpart, according to a story published by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Scenes that have been trimmed include the final assault by Django (played by Jamie Foxx) on the plantation of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio); brief scenes of Django and Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) being tortured in the nude; and Schultz (Christoph Waltz) recalling a horrible incident where he saw a man attacked by dogs.
"Django Unchained" is the first Tarantino film to be released theatrically in China, and many local movie bloggers have been strongly critical of the movie's treatment at the hands of state censors. (China has no rating system, and SARFT must deem movies suitable for all audiences.) Since the scuttled release in April, many movie buffs in China have seen the uncut version of "Django Unchained" thanks to pirated DVDs and unauthorized downloads; observers have speculated the unimpressive showing in Chinese theaters can be chalked up in part to much of its audience having seen the original, uncompromised print by now. Also, since China celebrated Mother's Day over the weekend as well as the United States, "Iron Man 3" and "The Croods" were likely seen by many as more fitting for an outing with Mom than Tarantino's edgier picture.