One movie that won't make it into Chinese theaters is Walt Disney Co.'s "Christopher Robin," which debuted in second place in the U.S. and Canada last weekend with a slightly lower-than-expected $25 million in ticket sales.
The movie, starring Ewan McGregor as a sad adult who reconnects with Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang, was denied a release in China, where the government tightly controls what gets into the lucrative market.
The move follows years of Chinese social media users employing pictures of the silly old bear to mock president Xi Jinping. China does not explain its decisions about what movies it allows. But the Pooh ban triggered speculation, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, that censors had kept "Christopher Robin" away from the box office honey pot because of the subversive memes.
The viral gags have irked China's censorial government officials for years. The memes started in 2013 with an image that juxtaposed a photo of Xi and Barack Obama with a similar picture of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. China blocked HBO's website this year after comedian John Oliver made fun of Xi's sensitivity over the Pooh comparisons on his show "Last Week Tonight."
There may be a more innocent explanation, though.
"Christopher Robin," insiders note, could have been denied entry simply because the government didn't think it was commercial enough for the market, which favors action and spectacle over whimsical period dramas.
China's government only allows 34 foreign films a year under a revenue-sharing agreement. Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time" also failed to secure a Chinese release date.
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