China Clears 'The Revenant' for Release, Cuts Expected

"The Revenant"
'Revenant,' Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Although the details are still being hashed out, the film, which won three Oscars on Sunday, has been cleared to open in the world's second-largest movie market in March.

Fresh from its triumphs at the Oscars in the best actor, director and cinematography categories, The Revenant is giving 20th Century Fox more reason to cheer.

Alejandro G. Inarritu's rugged revenge epic has been approved for a wide release in China, sources close to the decision in Beijing tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Although an official opening date is still being negotiated, two sources tell THR that China Film Group, the state-backed film company with monopoly control of distribution in the country, is pushing for a Friday, March 18, opening.

Friday and Saturday release slots have become rare for Hollywood films in China recently, as local regulators have sought to reserve the most lucrative opening dates for local productions. The Revenant was partially financed by Chinese money, which is generally seen as helping imported films receive favorable treatment from local regulators and the state-backed entities involved in distribution.

Guangdong Alpha Animation and Culture Company, a southern Chinese firm best known for manufacturing toys and providing animation services, injected an undisclosed but reportedly "substantial" sum into the project. Principle financing of The Revenant was provided by New Regency Films.

It's unlikely that the Chinese will see the same version of the film as moviegoers elsewhere in the world, however. "For sure, there will be a lot of cuts," said one of THR's sources. "Some of the violence is too much for China."

The Revenant's dark story of revenge and loss in the early American wilds will indeed pose an interesting challenge to a Chinese filmgoing audience more accustomed to shiny Hollywood superhero fare. Leonardo DiCaprio's star power should provide a boost, though. Beloved in China, the actor has been affectionately known as Xiao Li, or "Little Leo," since 1997's Titanic.  

The Revenant has grossed $404 million worldwide to date. The Chinese box office grew an astonishing 49 percent in 2015 to hit $6.78 billion for the year. The country is expected to surpass North America as the world's largest theatrical market sometime next year. 

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