'Noah' Won't Get China Release Date Due to Religious Theme

Noah Film Still Crowe Running in Rain - H 2014
Paramount Pictures

Noah Film Still Crowe Running in Rain - H 2014

The Biblical epic starring Russell Crowe failed to meet censorship requirements.

Mainland Chinese censors have denied Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic Noah a slot in the world's second-biggest film market, citing religious reasons, a distribution source who requested anonymity said.

"This was for religious reasons, though it seems the whole issue was quite complicated," the source told The Hollywood Reporter

The movie was due to screen mid-May and was being imported on a flat-fee basis, which means that it did not come under the quota of 34 overseas movies allowed into China on a revenue-share basis.

However, even flat-fee movies have to get censorship approval and this was not to be. Religion is a sensitive issue in defiantly secular China, and the biblical tale was always going to be closely scrutinized. A number of Muslim countries such as Indonesia have already banned the movie.

STORY: Russell Crowe's 'Noah' Banned in Malaysia

Starring Russell Crowe and costing $125 million to produce, Noah is director Aronofsky's highest-grossing film. Noah rolled out worldwide in late March.

Paramount and New Regency's biblical epic has already crossed the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office, based on its appeal to mainstream and faith-based audiences alike.

In North America, Noah has earned nearly $100 million to date, but overseas sales have been extremely strong. The film has done more than double that overseas, driven by outstanding performances in Russia ($32.8 million) and Brazil ($23.4 million), where Noah is the top-grossing Paramount release of all time. Other notable territory grosses to date include Mexico ($15.5 million), South Korea ($14.3 million), the U.K. ($13.1 million) and Australia ($10.7 million).

There are also possibly commercial reasons why Noah was not allowed. Hollywood has been having a strong run in the past few weeks in China, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 taking a record $10 million on its opening day despite an unofficial blackout to help boost local movies; and Captain America: The Winter Soldier has taken nearly $116 million in China to date.

There are also some major titles coming -- Godzilla is due in mid-June and Transformers: Age of Extinction is set to open this quarter, likley on a day-and-date release with the U.S. on June 27.