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HONG KONG — Sony Pictures’ Skyfall might be on target to hit the billion-dollar mark in global box office, but Daniel Craig’s latest outing as James Bond won’t be hitting theaters in China anytime soon.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Chinese authorities now are eyeing a late-January or early-February bow, a solid three months later than its original release date of Nov. 2 — the date still listed on the official James Bond website, 007.com.
It’s not that the authorities have problems with Skyfall‘s content. The official press, including the English-language China Daily, has run quite a few wire stories about the fanfare surrounding the release of the film around the world. But the decision to push Skyfall to January could be interpreted as overtly political and protectionist, since authorities appear to be ensuring that it doesn’t overshadow big-budget Chinese releases at the box office.
Feng Xiaogang’s Back to 1942 and Lu Chuan’s The Last Supper, both the kind of lavish, state-backed historical epics that China turns out regularly, are slated for late-November releases in the country. By pushing Skyfall’s bow into the Chinese New Year theatrical window, Chinese officials might be attempting to secure bigger box office for homegrown films.
It wouldn’t be the first time. During the summer, Chinese authorities pledged to make July the “month of protecting domestic films” by bumping all international summer tentpoles out of the release schedule. This led to an unhindered run at the box office for local productions, including the action fantasy Painted Skin: Resurrection, which took in $112.4 million (700 million yuan) as it nearly monopolized screens in the country during the month of June.
As a result, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, which opened in the U.S. and most other countries a few weeks apart in July, were released head-to-head in China on Aug. 27, a day after Prometheus also bowed in the country.
All of this calls into question whether the regime of China’s newly installed president Xi Jinping will continue to open its doors to Hollywood. After all, when Xi arrived in Los Angeles in February and announced plans to allow more foreign films to be released in China, the trip was interpreted as Beijing’s effort to bolster their leader-in-waiting’s standing as a reformer. During the visit, Xi even admitted that Saving Private Ryan and The Departed are among his favorite movies.
But just as Xi is finally installed as the Chinese Communist Party’s general secretary this week — an appointment which, in effect, seals his status as the country’s new leader — the decision to delay Skyfall‘s China release suggests this change of guard might not translate into the decrease in state control that many were hoping for and expecting.