China says not forcing "Avatar" off the screens

Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:05am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Wednesday denied that it was forcing the box office smash "Avatar" off local cinema screens, saying a move to take down the 2D version was a commercial decision and that the 3D version would still be shown.

Chinese media have speculated that James Cameron's sci-fi spectacular, which has grossed more than $1.6 billion worldwide, had been pulled to make way for domestic movies over the upcoming Chinese new year holiday, including a biopic on philosopher Confucius.

Many Chinese theatres will pull the 2D version of "Avatar" from Friday to make way for "Confucius," though the wildly popular 3D version will still be available.

"Avatar" has already earned more than 300 million yuan ($43.94 million) at the Chinese box office.

"Whether a movie closes or not, it's a market behavior decision," an official at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television told Reuters. "The government will not interfere."

The regulator's deputy chief, Zhang Hongsen, went further in comments quoted by Chinese media.

"The box office performance of the 2D version has not been great, whereas it's been really hard to get tickets for the 3D version," Zhang said. "So it's normal to take the 2D version off the screens. There'll be no change for the 3D version."

"Avatar" is already widely available on pirated DVDs in China.

Studio Twentieth Century Fox said they hoped audiences would still be able to see the film at the cinema.   Continued...