Avatar pulled for commercial reasons: Official

By Liu Wei (China Daily)
2010-01-21 09:35
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Avatar pulled for commercial reasons: Official

A senior Chinese film official denied rumors the government is forcing the movie Avatar off theater screens.

Zhang Hongsen, vice-director of the film bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, told reporters on Tuesday that the decision to pull Avatar from 2-D screens in China was a commercial one, not a government order.

"The 2-D version has not performed very well at the box office, while the 3-D version's tickets are very hard to purchase," he said at a seminar on the James Cameron sci-fi blockbuster. "So to take the 2-D version off the screen is quite normal."

He emphasized that the 3-D and IMAX versions will continue to be screened.

Zhang revealed that the box office revenue of Avatar's 2-D version only makes up one third of the movie's total gross in China.

Many Chinese media have speculated that Avatar was being pulled to make way for domestic films, including a biopic on the respected ancient Chinese thinker Confucius, which will premiere on Jan 22.

Zhang denies the speculation and called it rumor.

"It may seem so because Confucius happens to be screening around that date," he said. "Confucius has no 3-D version, so there is no conflict."

Studio Twentieth Century Fox said they hoped audiences would still be able to see the film in theaters in China.

"As of today, Jan 19, Avatar is still playing in cinemas nationwide in China. Twentieth Century Fox hopes that cinema-goers in China will continue to have the opportunity to see this film, which has been enthusiastically embraced by audiences there and throughout the world," it said in a statement.

Since its premiere on Jan 4, Avatar has grossed 550 million yuan ($80 million) in the country and has broken 2012's record of 460 million yuan to become the highest grossing film ever in China.

China imports only 20 foreign films for theatrical release each year. Most of them are Hollywood blockbusters.

The World Trade Organization turned down a Chinese appeal and upheld on Dec 21, 2009 its earlier ruling against Chinese regulations on the import and distribution of books and audio-visual products. According to the ruling, China may have to open more channels to import and distribute those products in the country.

Zhang responded to the issue by saying that talks are ongoing and he does not know the details.

In 2009, China saw a booming box office, which reached a record 6.2 billion yuan ($911 million), rising 42 percent over 2008. It is still small compared to the $10-billion box office in the US.