It’s been a long, arduous road for Django Unchained to get a release in China, but unlike the film’s protagonist (it’s Django, in case you missed that) the film dies a horrible death in the hands of the Chinese moviegoers. Sony jumped over a lot of hurdles, specifically China’s intense censorship agenda, in order to get a re-release in China. However, despite their flexibility with China’s government censorship, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film has only made $2.5 million since its May 12 release in China.
If you haven’t been following the Django vs. China saga, allow me to bring you up to speed. After a very successful run all over the world and grossing over $400 million globally, Django Unchained released in China on April 11. In a bizarre 180, the film was ordered by the Chinese government to be removed from theaters only a few seconds after it was screened. The details as to why the film was pulled are hazy, though some believe one or two Chinese officials saw the film and demanded that it be evacuated from the theaters. Although Django already underwent editing and more editing to make it acceptable for a Chinese release (i.e. trimming the violence and cutting the nudity), it was not allowed back in theaters until it was completely sanitary for the eyes and ears of China’s audiences. After some additional nip-tucking, Django Unchained was ready for round two with China on May 12, only to go down swinging.
So why did Django bomb after fighting so hard to stay in Chinese theaters?
At least one of many things could have contributed to the demise of the ultra-violent Western’s China tour. For starters, there was heavy competition for Django in China’s box-office from Hollywood (Iron Man 3, Oblivion, The Croods) as well as China’s homegrown goods (So Young, American Dreams). In addition, the first screening of the film was pirated and streamed on the Internet so, when faced with the choice of having to pay to watch the goody-two-shoes version or seeing the naughty version for free, many chose the latter. It’s interesting to note that Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s first film to be released in China (if you’re wondering why, watch just one of his films and get back to me). For his own sake, hopefully this setback won’t deter him from attempting the same feat with future projects. Better luck next time!