Quentin Tarantino’s widely anticipated Django Unchained was yanked off screens across China after its first show on Thursday morning, triggering disbelief and anger among movie-watchers.
For Hollywood, China is the second largest market in the world after Japan and the official reason of “technical reasons” did little to pacify movie-goers who had turned up at Beijing’s snazzy theatres to watch Tarantino’s violent slave-revenge tale.
They poured their anger online. “Several dramatic scenes occurred at theaters across China today, with shocked audiences in Beijing and Guangzhou stating on their microblogs that they had just watched the film for one minute when the lights went back on and theater staff told them showings had been cancelled and asked them to leave,” government portal China.org reported.
The abrupt pulling out of the movie was even more surprising as it was released in China after Tarantino agreed to cut out some of the violence in it.
Zhang Miao, director of Sony Pictures' Chinese branch, told Hollywood Reporter in Los Angeles earlier that director Tarantino had “agreed on making slight adjustments to the film for different markets, and this adjustment for him is progress rather than a compromise.”
That clearly didn’t help. One anonymous staff member in Beijing told China.org that due to Tarantino’s fame and this award-winning film, they had originally arranged for a heavy screening rotation.
“We can refund the tickets bought at counters but it will be very troublesome to refund those bought online,” he said, adding: “We have never seen this kind of situation before and I'm afraid many theaters cannot achieve their box office goal for this month due to the absence of Django.”
Tarantino's earlier films, including Kill Bill, several scenes of which were shot in China, were never released on Chinese mainland.
Many recent Hollywood movies were also forced to cut some scenes or had them removed by the authorities including the latest James Bond movie Skyfall and fantasy epic Cloud Atlas, which lost a plot-altering 38 minutes.