“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” is the line of the originaltheme song that has stood the test of time, and the song, on the whole, is certainly more enjoyable than that Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliott nonsense Paul Feig‘s reboot of the franchise has been saddled with. According to several sources, however, China won’t be amongst the countries who get to hear the new song in the film, as Feig’s Ghostbusters has reportedly been banned by their censors.
That’s at least part of the reason, but things remain largely unclear as to why (and even if) this is happening. According to their official censorship guidelines, the China Film Bureau can turn down films that, in their eyes, “promote cults or superstition.” Last year, this proved to be a problem for Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, a film looking for an overseas box office boost in the face of lukewarm domestic earnings. Pirates of the Caribbean was another example: Dead Man’s Chest was banned because it showed living spirits, while parts of At World’s End were cut for Chinese audiences to secure a release.
One way around this rule is to explain ghostly apparitions with a drug- or psychosis-induced trip. Ghostbusters, however, is a film about a group a scientists fighting phantasms. That’s not something that can be easily modified. However, THR reports that there’s a truer, non-superstitious reason for the ban at play. Based on their own sources, the trade states that regulators simply don’t believe Chinese audiences will take to
Based on their own sources, the trade states that regulators simply don’t believe Chinese audiences will take to Ghostbusters. ”Most of the Chinese audience didn’t see the first and second movies, so they don’t think there’s much market for it here,” an exec said.
Then again, according to Deadline, Sony commented today that the film hasn’t even been submitted to the Chinese Film Bureau yet. International sales is a constant concern for Hollywood studios and make up a large portion of box-office profits, so the difference really does matter here. Many industry insiders have said that this is at least part of the reason why there isn’t more LGBTQ representation in big-budget movies — there’s fear that anti-gay countries wouldn’t accept them. (Interestingly enough, Ghostbusters director Paul Feig recently implied there was studio interference when attempting to make clear the sexuality of Kate McKinnon’s Hotlzman.) China has been a crucial source for studios to gain higher profits for big-budget films, including Zootopia and Captain America: Civil War.
It’s too soon to tell whether this loss will be a major blow for Ghostbusters, a film with a reported production budget of $144 million. We’re not even sure at this point if the film has been seen by the Chinese Film Bureau. It’ll debut this weekend and pre-ticket sales in the U.S. anticipate a large opening, though there are already predictions that The Secret Life of Pets may top the charts again.