This Thursday was meant to be opening day for Django Unchained in China, but abruptly and without full explanation, the film was pulled from theaters. In some cases it was pulled while audiences were actually in the theater.
China is very restrictive about the media that reaches its citizens, whether broadcast and print media, Internet news, or entertainment. According to The New York Times, American movies are routinely edited (read: censored) because there’s no ratings system and everything that’s pushed out has to be appropriate for children and adults alike. That means less blood and gore, no nudity, and less violence. Because movie makers stand to make a ton of money from the Chinese market, they go along with this. The paper says that Django director Quentin Tarantino actually played a role in altering the movie before it was sent to China. Nevertheless, a confused Sony spokesperson told Deadline Hollywood in an email, “We regret that Django Unchained has been removed from theaters and are working with the Chinese authorities to determine whether the film can be rescheduled.”
A moviegoer told The Wall Street Journal‘s China Realtime Report blog that about a minute into his viewing of the movie, the lights came on and “several people in suits” entered the theater and offered everyone a refund. That’s like something out of a movie that the Chinese government would never let its people see.
China Film Group and the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television, the organizations that regulate films in China, aren’t talking yet. But bloggers are.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, online writers in China are openly saying that they’re going to get their hands on pirated copies of the movie and watch it on their own.
“While many bloggers have expressed surprise about the Chinese censors giving the film the green light – with its Chinese distributors, Sony China, confidently claiming the film will be released in full with just minor adjustments in the color and extent of blood being shed on screen – the news of the film’s sudden fall from grace still astounded many,” the article says. Some have said that the incident reflects poorly on the Chinese government, which is trying to put a good face forward internationally.
You can mess with a lot of things. But once you start fooling around with people’s entertainment, they take matters into their own hands.