A Hollywood studio is to change the source of a zombie apocalypse in the Chinese cut of new Brad Pitt film World War Z to avoid upsetting censors.
Conscious of China's growing importance as a market for US fare – the country recently became the world's second-largest nation in terms of box office revenue behind the United States – executives decided on the move to avoid the ire of Chinese authorities. Hollywood films are routinely released in the world's most populous nation with offending material excised from the final cut: James Bond movie Skyfall arrived in January with references to Chinese torture of British agents and a scene in which a hitman shoots a Chinese bodyguard in Shanghai removed or revised. Other films that have recently been cut for Chinese release – either by censors or their studios – include fantasy opus Cloud Atlas and the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid.
Paramount has reportedly changed a scene in World War Z during which characters discuss the source of the outbreak that caused the zombie apocalypse, and point to China. "It's not a huge plot point," a source told TheWrap. "But it's safe to say [they're] going to want a release there."
The news comes on the heels of the decision by Disney-owned Marvel to issue a special Chinese cut of superhero sequel Iron Man 3 with content designed to please local audiences. The film is already a co-production with local firm DMG and features several scenes shot in Beijing. The Chinese cut will feature "specially prepared bonus footage" and an appearance by Qindao-born superstar Fan Bingbing.
Given current growth rates, many experts think China's box office will surpass that of the USA by 2020. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) confirmed last month that the country had overtaken Japan to become the world's second-largest box office territory, with a total cinema audience worth $2.7bn (£1.7bn).
Starring Pitt, Mireille Enos, Bryan Cranston and Matthew Fox, World War Z is a $175m apocalyptic horror directed by Marc Forster and based on the novel by Max Brooks. Originally due for release in December, the film has undergone reshoots and will now hit cinemas on 21 June in both the US and the UK.
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