Will 'Ghostbusters' Get To Open In China?

Paul Feig's Ghostbusters finally arrives in U.S. theaters this weekend, and will spend the next few weeks rolling out across the world. But one country may not get the chance to answer the call. As of now it's unclear whether Ghostbusters will open in China, thanks to a somewhat obscure censorship guideline prohibiting certain supernatural elements. A rejection could have a major impact on the film's box office take as China is the second-biggest movie market in the world. 

What exactly is going on with the Ghostbusters Chinese release depends on whom you ask. The Hollywood Reporter makes it sound like the film's already been denied, although they also cite sources saying the film hasn't officially been submitted yet. Variety and Deadline have also heard that Ghostbusters has not yet screened for Chinese censors, but suggest Sony is "bracing" for a rejection. In any case, it sounds like there's a real chance Ghostbusters will never open in China.

Any foreign film playing in China has to get an okay from the state-controlled film board, and their official guidelines ban films that "promote cults or superstition." Ghostbusters wouldn't be the first Hollywood production to run afoul of this rule – Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak and Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest were previously denied entry under the same requirements.

Sony apparently made some effort to appease Chinese censors, giving Ghostbusters a Chinese title that translates to "Super Power Dare Die Team." (The 1984 original, which never played in Chinese theaters, was called "Ghost Catcher Dare Die Team." But when the entire premise of a film has to do with ghosts flying around New York, there's only so much you can tone down its supernatural elements.

Even if China decides to give Ghostbusters a pass on that rule, though, the film may face an even bigger barrier: a simple lack of interest. One Chinese executive who spoke with THR says the film simply is "not really that attractive to Chinese audiences," because most of them never saw the first two Ghostbusters films. Feig's movie is a hard reboot, so comprehension probably wouldn't be an issue, but marketing could be an uphill climb given that much of the film's appeal in other countries is based on nostalgia and brand familiarity.

Whatever the issue, a Chinese ban could do damage to Ghostbusters' commercial prospects. The Chinese market is powerful enough to make or break tentpole releases — they're basically why Pacific Rim 2 is happening, and the only reason anyone is even considering making a Warcraft 2 — and Ghostbusters, which cost $144 million to make, will need all the help it can get to turn a profit.