Ghostbusters in line for China ban due to supernatural theme

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Despite Sony renaming film ‘Super Power Dare-to-Die Team’ for China, censorship laws prohibiting promotion of cults and superstitions look set to scupper its chances of release


Ghostbusters in line for China ban due to supernatural theme
Chinese burn … Kristen Wiig in Ghostbusters, which may never be released in China due to its spooky content. Photograph: Allstar/Sony Pictures

Ghostbusters is unlikely to be let loose in China due to its supernatural themes, according to Variety.

Paul Feig’s reboot stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the spectre-smashing quartet. It has not yet been screened for Chinese censors, but Variety’s source suggests it is likely to be snared by rules banning films that prohibit the promotion of “cults and superstitions”. Studio Sony have attempted to sway the censors by renaming the film. If it were released in China it would be called “Super Power Dare-to-Die Team”.

Under China’s censorship laws any films suggesting the existence of the supernatural can be banned from distribution. Exceptions are made for ghost stories based on Chinese mythology or films in which the supernatural is explained by a realistic rationale (eg drug use or dream sequence). Among the films that have fallen foul of the ruling in the past is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror starring Tom Hiddleston.

China runs a quota on the number of American films allowed into the country, yet Chinese audiences have often offered a lifeline for US productions that struggled at home. Warcraft, Duncan Jones’s adaptation of the popular video game, bombed in the US, but dominated the Chinese box office chart last month. Known locally as “World of Magic Beasts”, it made more than half of its $430.1 m revenue in China.

Feig’s comedy is expected to face a tough time at the US box office this week, with analysts expecting it to take a maximum of $50m (from a reported $144m budget) in its opening weekend. The film, which has received generally good reviews, has been hit by a wave of criticism from those who are annoyed at the idea of female Ghostbusters.

Sony has so far not commented, though Deadline reports a source has said the film has not yet been officially submitted to China Film Group, the state-owned organisation that operates imported films.

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