Paul Feig’s new Ghostbusters won’t be opening in China. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the reboot has been denied approval to screen in China, which could have a major impact on its final box office returns.
China, the world’s second largest film market, is highly restrictive to foreign films: only a select number of movies from outside of the country are approved for a wide release. According to sources quoted by THR, the film wasn’t banned due to supposed bans on films banning supernatural works, but because of the broader appeal of Ghostbusters to a wider Chinese audience: the first and second films haven’t been hugely popular within the country, and "they don't think there's much market for it here."
Films such as 'Star Wars' and 'Ghostbusters' don't have a huge following in China
This isn’t unheard of: despite the incredible success that Star Wars: The Force Awakens enjoyed at the box office, the film didn’t do as well as expected in China, falling far behind other 2015 blockbusters. The same scenario appears to be at play here.
Another oft-spoken reason for the ban has been attributed to a ban on supernatural or ghost films. However, given that the film hasn’t officially been approved by Chinese regulators, and the opaque nature of the country’s regulations, there’s no way to tell for sure exactly what the reasoning is behind the move. China’s supposed ban on ghost stories is hard to substantiate, because there is no clear-cut list (and because, according to artist Aowen Jin, China is hardly worried or scared of ghosts).
There are some regulations on the books that allows the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television to ban films that "that spread propaganda for cults or superstitions," if the regulations are taken literally. That said, there are other regulations that ban depictions of violence, murder and content that "mixes up value orientations such as truth and falsehood, good and evil, beauty and ugliness" and so forth. If all films were held to the literal word of these directives, fewer foreign films would enter the Chinese marketplace. Because these rules are so arbitrary, it's difficult for foreign countries to anticipate what will and will not be allowed.
China refusing to let a film into the country isn’t necessarily a death-knell for the film: Deadpool was banned earlier this year and still went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film ever. However, removing China and its growing audience complicates things for Feig’s film.