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Censors Send Fans Away from Cinemas

Anthony Minghella's civil war epic Cold Mountain will be arriving at Shanghai theaters in April, but some of the "best scenes" won't be shown.


"Some nude scenes and spicy materials have been cut, since China has no classification or rating system for films," said Bao Yifan, an official with Shanghai United Cinema Lines, operator of the city's largest theater chain.


Theater owners around the city are worried that overzealous censors will send even more people off to the DVD stores where they can buy uncut, but generally illegal, versions of Hollywood movies long before they hit the big screen in Shanghai.


A sex scene involving Julia Roberts was recently cut from Mona Lisa Smile so it could be shown at cinemas around China starting this month.


"The cutting does not respect the filmmakers," said Zhu Hongying, a middle-aged movie fan. "I will try every means to find a complete version on DVD instead of going to a movie theater for a censored film."


Xu Xiaomeng, marketing manager of Shanghai Paradise Warner Cinema City, agrees.


"It's a loss for the audience," she said. "They come for the movie but see an incomplete version. In addition, the cuts disrupt the movie's flow."


She would like to see the country set up a rating system for movies, instead of cutting out offending scenes.


Bao said he expects a system will eventually be set up, but he doesn't expect it to happen soon.


"The film industry is so small in China at the moment. The annual box office is only 900 million yuan (US$108 million), which is so insignificant in the economy," Bao said. "Legislators have yet to set up a schedule to discuss film rating legislation."


According to the Shanghai-based newspaper Youth Daily, another Golden Globe-nominated film, Big Fish, will not be shown in Chinese theaters since some scenes are believed to "tarnish the image of the Chinese People's Liberation Army."


(eastday.com February 17, 2004)

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