Industry

Release of Nicolas Cage’s ‘Outcast’ halted in China hours before scheduled opening

The release of period action film “Outcast,” starring Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen, was halted in China only hours before a scheduled wide theatrical outing.

The film, a Chinese-French-Canadian co-production, was due to have been released Friday in China on some 26% of screens in the country, or more than 5,000 theaters.

Co-producer and sales company Arclight said that it was informed by email in the middle of the night by Yunnan Film Group, the film’s principal financier and Chinese distributor, that the release would not go ahead.

“The reasons for this are not clear. We simply don’t know if it is censorship problem, or something else,” said Mike Gabrawy, Arclight’s head of production. “Marketing and promotion have been done and money has been spent.”

Cage is not currently in China, though director Nick Powell and Christensen are in the country to support the release.

The story involves a mysterious warrior from the West who teams up with the son and daughter of a deposed Chinese emperor to defeat their cruel uncle.

Producer is Jeremy Bolt of the U.K.’s Notorious Films alongside France’s 22h22 and Canada’s Media Max Prods.

The last-minute halting of a major release is not unprecedented in China. Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” was pulled from screens hours after it had hit Chinese theaters. The problem in that case, which was never been officially clarified, appears linked to nudity and violence, and the film returned to theaters a few days later.

Unlike “Django,” “Outcast” is structured as a Chinese-made film, involving a Chinese equity partner, and it was filmed in China. Arclight had previously seen Yunnan Film Group co-invest in its horror-thriller “Bait 3D.”

“We can be sure that this is not a problem coming from international. However, with China such an important market, many other territories in Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, had chosen to go day and date. We’ve spent the day doing damage control,” said Gabrawy. Malaysia was to have released the pic on Friday while Singapore and Vietnam were scheduled to go out Saturday.

The film has sold out worldwide, according to Arclight. After a bidding battle in North America, Millennium is to release the movie in the U.S., though the date has not been settled.

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