Sony and Paul Feig’s reboot of Ghostbusters officially slimes its way into US theaters this Friday on the wave of some not-too-shabby reviews. That’s a good sign for a film that cost about $144 million to produce and needs to fall on the higher end of its predicated $38-$50 million box office to avoid a mediocre opening. While even the biggest flop can recoup losses overseas, Ghostbusters finds itself at a massive disadvantage in the worldwide market, as it’s just been denied a Chinese release.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned from sources close to China Film Co., the state-owned agency that determines which foreign films are released within China, that Ghostbusters has been blocked from screening there. Some have speculated that a law persisting from the Communist Party’s more secular regulations which calls for the censorship of films that “promote cults or superstition” has gotten in the way. China Film Co. has previously used the law to ban movies which feature “realistic” depictions of ghosts, like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Sony tried to avoid a similar fate for Ghostbusters by actually excluding the Chinese symbol for “ghost” from the film’s title. The 1984 original (which also never saw a movie theater in China, either), was titled 捉鬼敢死队, literally translating to “Ghost Catcher Dare Die Team.” However, the new version switched the first few characters, now reading 超能敢死队, or “Super Power Dare Die Team.”
Still, THR’s source said none of this really mattered. “It’s been confirmed that Ghostbusters won’t be coming to China,” a Chinese executive told the magazine, “because they think it’s not really that attractive to Chinese audiences. 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.”
It looks like the Chinese ain’t afraid of no ghost — they just don’t give a damn.