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January 20, 2010

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China pulls reins on 'Avatar'

CHINA plans to put the brakes on "Avatar's" record-breaking run.

Authorities are pulling the non-3D version of the science fiction epic from screens across the country as of Saturday, according to theater operators and media reports.

China Film Group, the domestic distributor of the Hollywood blockbuster, has reportedly ordered cinemas to stop showing the 2D version of James Cameron's global hit on Chinese mainland by this weekend.

The 3D and IMAX versions of the movie will continue into February.

Reportedly, part of the reason is to reduce competition for China's homegrown films, like the biopic of Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher, starring Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat, which opens tomorrow.

The Beijing Youth Daily yesterday quoted UME International Cineplex Assistant Manager Liu Hui as confirming the pullout. Liu said it won't affect her cinema's revenues.

"In UME, the 3D and Imax version make up 90 percent of our box-office income, so it won't affect the majority of viewers. With the pullout of the 2D version, movies like Confucius will gain some room for showing," she said.

"Avatar" is already the biggest box-office success in China, pulling in more than 300 million yuan (US$44.1 million) as of January 12. It quickly surpassed last year's "2012" and "Transformers 3."

In theaters across Shanghai, word spread quickly that the 2D version would be gone by the weekend. All versions of the movie were originally scheduled to run through the Chinese New Year in mid-February.

"It's "not just our theater. The 2D 'Avatar' is going to be stopped everywhere," a ticket sales manager at the Peace Cinema said.

"If you want to see it, seize the opportunity now - even for 3D," he said.


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