Why China Yanked 'The Croods' From Theaters

"The Croods"

The country's "protection month" strikes again as a DreamWorks blockbuster is pulled early even as Jeffrey Katzenberg extols the virtues of the Chinese market.

This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When news broke June 6 that The Croods had been yanked from Chinese cinemas two weeks earlier than scheduled, one China exec joked that it was Django Unchained Part II -- a reference to how Quentin Tarantino's Western abruptly was pulled after shows had begun April 11.

Now sources confirm to THR that the DreamWorks Animation blockbuster -- which had taken in $64.2 million in China when its run was cut short -- drew the ire of local animation producers who complained to regulators that the film still was being promoted more than a month into its run. The Croods opened April 20 and was expected to wrap May 21, clearing the way for homegrown animated movies to be released June 1, China's Children's Day.

STORY: Chinese Authorities Pull 'The Croods' From Cinemas Two Weeks Early

But the film performed so well that it was granted an extension to June 24. That irked protectionists, causing the Chinese film regime to kickstart what locals call "the protection of domestic production month," an informal period during which authorities keep cineplexes clear of Hollywood fare. With Croods gone, the Chinese thriller Switch nabbed more than 35 percent of theaters when it opened June 9, taking in $7.8 million (the third-highest opening-day gross for a local film).

Last July's "protection month" led to The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man being pushed to late August. Ironically, just as Croods was pulled, DWA chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was praising the Chinese film industry in the city of Chengdu. Katzenberg avoided the Croods flap but reminded his audience that it had become the top original animated release in China.