BEIJING (Reuters) - A city in a scenic part of southern China has denied renaming a craggy peak after the floating mountains that appeared in Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar,” after an online backlash, state media said on Thursday.
The “Southern Sky Column” in Zhangjiajie in southern Hunan province formally had its named changed to “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain” in a ceremony on Monday, according to the Zhangjiajie government’s website (www.zjj.gov.cn).
The government said the floating “Hallelujah Mountains” in the movie were inspired by the “Southern Sky Column,” as a Hollywood photographer spent time shooting there in 2008.
But Zhangjiajie has now denied doing so, the official Xinhua news agency said.
“We just put a poster of two pictures comparing ‘South Sky Pillar’ with ‘Hallelujah Mountain’ on the mountain to show people evidence that the Avatar mountain originated here. It is a source of pride to Zhangjiajie,” Xinhua quoted Ding Yunyong, head of the city’s tourism department, as saying.
Xinhua said Chinese citizens “accused officials of being money-oriented and blindly worshipping Western culture” in trying to rename the peak.
In a survey on popular portal sina.com, 54,619 voted to condemn the renaming with just 5,897 supporting it, the report added.
“We only added a way to call the mountain. The previous name is not abolished,” Xinhua quoted another local tourism official, Song Zhiguang, as saying.
Zhangjiajie had hoped to capitalize on that fame to bring in more tourists.
Chinese cinemas last week began taking the 2D version of “Avatar” off their screens to make way for domestic movies over the upcoming Chinese new year holiday, though the wildly popular 3D version is still available.
“Avatar” has so far made around $80 million in China, and has been reported as the country’s most successful film ever in terms of box office receipts.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jerry Norton