China pulls 'Django Unchained' on day of premiere
In this Saturday, March 2, 2013 photo, actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses for a photo call during a press conference to promote his new film "DJango Unchained" in Tokyo. The Hollywood film "Django Unchained" has been pulled from Chinese theaters on its opening day, despite weeks of promotion for director Quentin Tarantino's violent slave-revenge saga. Movie theaters throughout China said Thursday, April 11, 2013 that they were ordered to suspend the film. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)
BEIJING (AP) — "Django Unchained" became "Django Unscreened" as Quentin Tarantino's violent slave-revenge saga was pulled from Chinese theaters on its opening day, with the importer blaming an unspecified technical problem.
The rare suspension order by China Film Group Corp. was confirmed by theater employees throughout China, and has led to speculation that the Hollywood film could have run afoul of Chinese censors despite weeks of promotion in the country.
Calls to the importer and to China's regulatory agency, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, were unanswered. A spokesman for Sony Pictures, Steve Elzer, said the studio regrets the film's removal from theaters and is trying to see if it can be rescheduled.
"Django Unchained" reportedly cut some violent scenes and had already been cleared by China's rigorous censors, who generally remove violence, sex and politically edgy content. With such an exacting system, suspension on a film's premiere date is unusual.
Tian Zaixing, general manager of the Beichen Fortune Center movie theater in the southern city of Kunming, said he could not recall any other imported film being halted on the opening day. The order from China Film Group came in a phone call around 10 a.m. Thursday, he said.
"We were excited about the film," he said. "We had had high expectations for this film's box office."
Tian said he had hoped the movie would bring about one-tenth of the monthly box office, or about 150,000 yuan ($24,000), to his six-screen theater in April. Now, he must scramble to fill newly opened slots for screening.
"This means we might not be able to meet our box-office goal for the year," Tian said.
A woman walks out from the Wanda cinema as movies including "Django Unchained" are displayed on a board introducing new movies, in Beijing Thursday, April 11, 2013. “Django Unchained” became “Django Unscreened” on Thursday as Quentin Tarantino’s violent slave-revenge saga was pulled from Chinese theaters on its opening day due to an unspecified technical problem. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
He dismissed speculation that a nude scene was the offending culprit.
"The censors have sharper eyes than we do," Tian said. "Shouldn't they have already spotted it?" He added the scene was not lewd at all but powerful in making the audience sympathetic toward one character.
The film stars actors well known to the Chinese audience: Leonardo DiCaprio as a plantation owner and Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who trains to become a bounty hunter and demands his wife's freedom before the U.S. Civil War.
It made more than $160 million at the North American box office and has proved successful overseas as well. China has risen to the second-biggest movie market with sales of $2.7 billion last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.