June 8, 2006

China pulls “Da Vinci Code” to help local films

BEIJING (Reuters) - China ordered cinemas to pull the plug
on controversial blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code" so as to allow
more exposure for homegrown films, a state newspaper said on

The decision came after calls from several groups
representing the Chinese film industry, the official
English-language China Daily said, although it suggested the
movie could continue to be shown.

"We are not against foreign films," the newspaper quoted an
unnamed official with one of the film's Chinese distributors as
saying. "My company will continue to arrange their screenings
in China according to market demand."

A media source told Reuters on Thursday that domestic
newspapers had received a notice from the central government
propaganda department telling them to stop all references to
the movie in print.

The source said the decision had been taken after protests
from Chinese religious groups.

Before the film premiered in China on May 17, hours ahead
of its gala opening at Cannes, the official Chinese Catholic
Church had already issued a notice urging the faithful to
boycott it.

The movie had been one of the highest grossing foreign
films in China, earning 104 million yuan ($12.97 million) since
it was released, the China Daily added.

While China tightly restricts the number of foreign movies
that can be shown on the big screen, pirated versions of most
recent Hollywood films can be bought on most street corners.

The controversial adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling
novel, the story of a Vatican cover-up involving Jesus Christ
and his supposed offspring, has been banned in several Indian
states, as well as Fiji, Pakistan and some other countries for
offending religious sensibilities.

China is officially an atheist country, but its
constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom.

Relations between Beijing and the Vatican -- who have no
diplomatic ties -- reached a new low last month when the Pope
censured China publicly for installing two bishops in the
state-backed Catholic church without the Holy See's approval.

($1=8.016 Yuan)