China announced on Wednesday that the government has ordered theaters nationwide to stop screening the blockbuster film Avatar only 2 weeks after it premiered in the country.
Avatar, which recently won the Golden Globe awards for Best film, has grossed more than $1.62 billion world wide and $73.2 million in China.
The film's financial success concerned the Chinese government, according to a report in Hong Kong's Daily Apple newspaper, which said the government feared the blockbuster would stifle the local film industry.
The report said the government feared the revolt by the indigenous Na'vi population shown in the film would ignite the Chinese people's imagination to instigate a similar popular revolt.
Movie studio 20th century Fox confirmed that the 2D version of the film will be banned in more than 1,600 theaters and will be replaced by a Chinese biographical production about Confucius.
The 3D version is expected to continue showing in more than 900 cinemas until February 28.
Chinese commentators have also pointed out the similarity between the film's story of the Na'vis' battle to protect their land and culture with Chinese citizens fighting to protect their property from the government and developers.
"Foreigners think this kind of brutal interference is beyond imagination, that it can only happen on a different planet or in China," Chinese blogger and commentator Huang Hung wrote.
Tickets for the blockbuster, selling at an all-time high of $11 per ticket, and up to $40 in the black market for the 3D version, were sold out in China weeks before the film premiered, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Yet despite the film's box office success, official Chinese policy placed limitations on the screening of Hollywood films in the country to 20 a year, in order to support the local film industry.
During the promotion tour for his film, Avatar director James Cameron urged the Chinese government to lift the limitation on foreign films, and said that the encouragement to visit the cinema would only stimulate the local film industry to build more cinemas.
In 2008 the Chinese government banned blockbuster The Dark Knight, due to "cultural sensitivity" that could offend the Chinese people.
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