Update (2010.01.20): SARFT has responded to the rumors (it denies them, natch).
Microblogs in China are buzzing with a report that Avatar may be pulled from 2D screens to make way for Confucius (孔子), the new biopic directed by Hu Mei and starring Chow Yun-fat as the sage.
Avatar, a Hollywood import, has grossed 500 million yuan in China since it was released at the beginning of the month.
The Wuxi Big World Cineplex posted the following notice to its website today:
The China Film Group Company and the distribution network have given notice that Avatar (all versions) will close immediately on January 23 all across the country! We ask your understanding! Viewers who have purchased tickets for the 23rd and the 24th may obtain a refund from the box office before the 22nd!
To satisfy the viewing needs of the audience, the cinema will add midnight showings from the 21st and 22nd. Grab them quickly!
Wuxi Big World Cineplex
The notice has now been taken down, but it is still visible in a cached copy on Baidu.
According to the China News Agency, which spoke to the cinema, the posting was in error: the cinema said it had not received any notice, and it would only be stopping 2D versions of Avatar (film and digital) on the 23rd. The 3D version would continue to be shown.
There is no 3D version of Confucius, commenters have pointed out. Other sources have been reporting that the 2D Avatar has indeed been ordered to give way to Confucius. Commenter DarkSideMoon in a related Douban thread wrote:
I asked classmate of mine who works at a cinema:
Avatar is being pulled, or so I've heard?
Uh-huh. The 3D version will continue playing — it's just the other versions that will stop, to give way for our sainted Confucius.
Confucius has utterly defeated Avatar.
Hong Kong's Apple Daily ran a report containing further rumors:
China Film instructed all locations to stop showing the ordinary version of Avatar and to show only the 3D version. The Central Publicity Department issued an order to the media prohibiting it from hyping up Avatar. Reportedly, the authorities have two reasons for this check on Avatar: first, it has taken in too much money and has seized market share from domestic films, and second, it may lead audiences to think about forced removal, and may possibly incite violence.
A mainland source close to China Film confirmed that the company had recently issued instructions ordering the 2D and film version of Avatar to be taken down this week, leaving only the 3D version still showing.
Because there are so few 3D cinemas on the mainland, the order effectively prevents the general distribution of Avatar. The source said that the order had come from SARFT: "It may be a political decision." Reportedly, even the 3D version will only be able to screen for three to four weeks. Avatar premiered in China on the fourth of the month.
According to the source, the Central Publicity Department has ordered propaganda departments to ensure that the media does not hype up Avatar, and that they correctly guide public opinion. At the same time, it instructed the entertainment news media to shift its attention to the upcoming domestic blockbuster Confucius. Confucius, starring Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat, will premiere across the mainland on the 22nd.
Update (2010.01.19): Shenyang's Huashang Morning Post reports that many cinemas in the city are replacing Avatar with Confucius on the 23rd:
Yesterday at 7pm, this reporter learned from the Wanda International Cineplex in Shenyang that the 2D version of Avatar would end its run on the 22nd. Manager Zhao Yong said, "This evening we received word from our superiors that SARFT has issued a notice stating that Avatar, which was originally intended to show through February 11, would be pulled from the market on January 22, leaving only the 3D version behind. Right now, Avatar's daily box office take is approaching 200,000, but there's still a little room in the marketplace."
This reporter then sought to confirm this news with other cinemas in Shenyang. Gao Yunying, manager of the Huachen Cineplex in Sanhao, said, "Confucius will start showing on the 22nd, so we need to free up a few theaters for it. And pulling the 2D version of Avatar won't really affect the cinema very much because audiences are coming in for the 3D version."
As of last night, not all cinemas in Shenyang had received the news, but this reporter learned from media in places like Changchun and Nanjing that Avatar's 2D version will most certainly exit the market this week.
Links and Sources