CinemaCon: Fate of 'Django Unchained' in China Remains Shrouded in Mystery
LAS VEGAS -- A gathering Monday of top film executives and Motion Picture Association of America chairman-CEO Christopher Dodd for a panel on the booming Chinese box office left unanswered the question of why Django Unchained was yanked from theaters in China late last week.
But questioned by reporters following the afternoon session at CinemaCon, Wanda Cinema CEO Jerry Ye said he hopes Quentin Tarantino's movie will be allowed back into theaters. Wanda Cinema is China's largest theater circuit, operating more than 1,000 screens.
Separately, Dodd told THR that he hasn't officially intervened on behalf of Sony, which is distributing Django overseas (The Weinstein Co. partnered with Sony on the film).
It's still not clear exactly why Django was pulled from theaters, since it had been approved by Chinese censors after minor tweaks. There's speculation, however, that a scene involving frontal nudity may have raised the ire of some Chinese government officials after the fact.
The subject of Django -- the first Tarantino film to be allowed into China -- didn't officially come up during Monday's panel, but was the elephant in the room as Dodd and Ye, along with IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond, Ellen Eliasoph, president-CEO of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group Asia, and Warner Bros. International Cinemas president Millard Ochs discussed the growing importance of China to Hollywood, and the challenges of doing business there.
Peter YF Chan, a Chinese media and entertainment expert at Ernst & Young who introduced the panel, said that China will surpass the U.S. to become the biggest movie-going market in the world by 2020 (he's not the first to make that prediction).
"The sleeping giant is awake," commented Ochs.
Dodd, Ye and the other panelists stressed the importance of taking the time to build strong relationships in China, even if that process takes years.
"Be patient," Ye said.
CinemaCon, the annual convention of theater owners, runs through Thursday.