Chinese fans of the book series-turned-movie franchise “The Hunger Games” won’t be getting the movie theater release date they initially were promised. The latest installment, Mockingjay -- Part 1, was set to have a China opening Nov. 21, but the date has has since been canceled.
The star-studded dystopian action movie was intended to receive a rare simultaneous international release, and even do a special Asia press tour stopping in Beijing and Seoul to promote the theater opening the same day it opens to U.S. audiences. Instead, China’s notoriously fickle censors have indefinitely canceled the premiere.
While unidentified sources told The Hollywood Reporter the movie has been postponed for an early January 2015 release instead of being banned, plot themes in the Mockingjay movie could be a reason for the delay.
China Times reported speculation government media censors may have pulled the movie from release for its underlying political themes of revolution and rebellion, which may hit too close to home for the country currently embroiled in political unrest in Hong Kong. The first part of the movie-version of the final book in the series revolves around a rebellion led by Katniss Everdeen, played by Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, against the Capitol, where the government is located. The post-apocalyptic society in which the Hunger Games movies take place is called Panem, of which the Capitol has overarching rule over.
Lionsgate, the production company behind the movie, which revolves around the toppling of the government, has yet to release an official statement on why the movie was pulled, nor have Chinese censors.
The cancellation may have deep financial repercussions. China’s lucrative movie-going market is Hollywood’s second-largest -- and it’s growing. Losing out on that audience could mean lossess in the millions of dollars. Blockbuster movies like the summer's “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” raked in $54 million in just eight days in Chinese theaters -- which is more than the first installment of the series made during in China with just $48.8 million. The latest Transformers movie, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which received a cold critical reception in the U.S., destroyed box office records in China. Partially filmed in Hong Kong, "Age of Extinction" became China’s top-grossing title of all time, becoming the first film to cross $300 million in ticket sales in the country.
However, all of those ticket sales are jeopardized without a theater-release as viewers are forced to turn to pirated DVDs or illegal online streaming. According to a report by LEK Consulting for the Motion Pictures Association, piracy rates in China are the highest in the world, at 90 percent. That number represents potential market losses as a result of movie industry piracy. Additionally, numbers by Reuters indicate Chinese piracy and counterfeiting cost the U.S. economy about $48 million a year.
The first two installments of the movies, “The Hunger Games” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” both were released uncut to Chinese theaters.