'Harry Potter', 'E.T.' avoid horror ban


BEIJING -- "Harry Potter" seems to have cast a spell on Chinese censors: films featuring the boy magician were spared from being banned under a new anti-horror policy issued by the Chinese government.

Harry and pals "Shrek" and "E.T." were except from the General Administration of Press and Publications decree that said that products featuring horror themes, especially those specifically aimed at children, would be banned for home video distribution, the Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

That doesn't mean that such products aren't still subject to censorship.

While Harry may get a home video release, some of the films had to make many minutes of footage vanish in order to reach Chinese screens. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" was cut so heavily -- including the scene that introduces Gary Oldman's title character -- that some viewers said they couldn't follow the plot.

Although the latest proclamation was targeted at horror, magic themes have long been sticky for Chinese censors. Along with the Potter cuts, magic kept "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" out of Chinese cinemas.

China does not have a ratings system, and therefore every film must be classified as being suitable for all audiences before being approved for theatrical release.