Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ancient Sage, Futuristic Aliens Battle for Screen Time

James Cameron's Avatar is one of the most profitable foreign films ever on the mainland, grossing over 500 million yuan ($76 million) at the box office so far.

My colleague just told me yesterday that her friend in Shanghai said Avatar tickets for the 3D version in the coastal city are going for as much as 1,000RMB ($146.46) on the black market.

Many people in China are starting to draw comparisons with the Na'vi people and those who are being forcibly evicted by greedy real estate developers in the country. Others see similarities with people in Tibet and Xinjiang.

That's because in the movie, human colonists try to demolish the village of an alien race in order to obtain a precious energy source buried under it.

But now there are claims Avatar will soon be taken off the big screen because it's too subversive and will soon be replaced by Confucius, played by Chow Yun-fat.

According to a report from Hong Kong's Apple Daily, the state-run China Film Group have instructed cinemas nationwide to stop showing the 2D version of Avatar from January 23 with orders from Beijing's propaganda chiefs.

"Reportedly, the authorities have two reasons for this check on Avatar," the article said. "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."

This is a possible reason as China only allows 20 foreign films per year in the hopes of nurturing its own film industry. However, the film had been expected to run until February 28, during the Spring Festival holidays. And as the fictional movie about the great sage isn't in 3D, there will likely be an even greater demand for 3D Avatar tickets -- and bigger box office receipts.

In a way this helps Confucius avoid a showdown with the Na'vi people, but anything after Avatar will be a hard act to follow.

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