Hollywood’s newest science fiction thriller, “Gravity,” already is a smashing success at the U.S. box office and among critics. Now, director Alfonso Cuaron has won over some of the world’s toughest movie-watchers: Chinese censors.
According to the state-owned Beijing News, the space drama from Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), has been approved for release in mainland China in November. As China has become the world’s second-largest film market, getting a release in local movie theaters basically means guaranteed box office success. But it is easier said than done.
China’s multilayer regulations on foreign film releases on the mainland make it extremely competitive and difficult for Western movies to be approved. The government’s annual quota, which only allows 34 foreign-made films to be released in Chinese theaters, limits the movies that actually make it in theaters. On top of that, China’s notoriously strict and often ambiguous media censorship bureau, the State Administration for Radio Film and Television, has the power to refuse movies or cut scenes deemed inappropriate for Chinese audiences. The censorship group is known to ban material based on violence, sex and crude language, but also based on how the Chinese are portrayed. Films like the second installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, "Dead Man’s Chest," where Chinese characters are portrayed as villains or in unsavory roles, are often censored.
However, "Gravity’s" nod to China’s new and growing space program plays an integral part in the movie’s plot line, in which Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock finds herself stranded in space.
While space travel and technology were previously dominated by the U.S. and Russia, the Chinese are extremely impressed with the leaps that their national space program has taken in recent years. While other Hollywood films may be appealing to China’s love for action flicks, "Gravity" takes it a step further by tapping into their sense of national pride.